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Old 31st March 2005, 03:51 AM   #13
Chris Evans
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Australia
Posts: 584

Hi Frank,

1. There has been a long standing tradition in Spain and Italy, just just to name two, where cutlers make oversize knives to enter into trade shows or kept as displays in their shops as capability statements. These are known in Spanish as "navajas de muestra/exposicion", literally showpieces. In the book `La Cuchilleria Artistica de Albacete' there is a photo of one such navaja, that was 48" long (closed) and weighed 26Lbs!

1.2 Contrary to the wishful thinking of Hispanophile romantics, these oversized navajas never saw use. The maximum blade length for navajas, before they become unpractically heavy or too weak at the hinge, is around 12". Even so, according to the Spanish authority Forton, on average, old navajas had blades of only 6"-9".

2. Re Illustration on pg71 of MdB:

First, we have to remember that Dore's decorative pictures were added, to later editions and were not part of the original. This was obviously done to increase the book's selling appeal.

Dore was requested to provide decorative pictures for the MdB and he rose to the occasion as only he could; With an excellent feel for what would sell the book, he depicted `Guapos/Matamoros/Barateros' (Spanish tough guys) brandishing gigantic and fantastic navajas in sword like manner. This ability to dramatize pictorially is what made Dore the most sought after illustrator of his age.

Nevertheless, the weapon on pg71 looks more like a weird machete rather than a navaja; Had it been a real folder, it would have weighed well over 5Lbs!

Something that ought to be pointed out is that Dore must have had little familiarity with navajas because all those that he drew only vaguely resemble these famous Spanish knives. But then, this is a fault shared even by Spanish artists of that era, underscoring the seldom appreciated fact that the navaja was the weapon of the masses and alien to the gentry, to whose ranks most painters belonged. So we have to be very careful in taking artists works as accurate depictions.

2.1 For inspiration, Dore could have based his pictures on showpiece navajas. Nevertheless, it bears commenting upon that the picture on pg71 looks remarkably like the principal character of an oil canvas by the painter Antonio Medina shown on pg 190 of Forton's `La Navaja Antigua Espanola' - Hummm.....

3. As soon as I get my scanner going I will post some pics of these showpiece navajas.

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