Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
As far as I have known in reviewing old notes, the convention of asymmetric shells in the hilt convention known as 'boca de caballo' (= horses mouth re: bridle) began in Spanish hilts around mid 17th c. (per Juan Calvo).
Naturally (as noted) the hilt system prevailed and was accordingly varied in degree.
I am not sure that it was a Spanish 'invention' as much a matter of cross influences in the developing rapier hilt styles through the 17th c. As I had noted, the so called "Pappenheimer" hilts of N. Europe had these opposed (bilobate) loops in which these were installed with a pierced plate on one or both.
It may be that the rule of the 'Spanish Netherlands' accounted for the cross adoption of styles and influences. This provincial collection of Habsburg states in union 1556-1714 included S. Netherlands, N.France, W.Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, which may well account for the combining of these fashions.
I have seen these rather austere quillon terminals on Spanish rapier guards of 17th c. and as mentioned, the pommel style seems in accord with Pappenheimer rapiers of early 17th. which were of course from N. European regions as well as Germany.
I have seen other Spanish rapier hilts of the boca de caballo style with these smaller discs noted as 17th c. as well, but cannot place the source of my sketches in my notes.
In the case of this example of the sword we are discussing here, the guardopolvo seems a vestigial element in accord with the rapier gestalt of the weapon.
The Spanish version of these which has been designated the '1728' and become known colloquially as the 'bilbo', is a 'pattern' which was noted in regulations of that year, and as often the case, was well established as a form some time earlier. These were 'arming' swords and had heavier blades suited to the rigors of combat on campaign. As often the case with Spanish sword types, these found use, particularly in colonial regions, even through the 18th into 19th c.
Typically these narrow (yet stout) rapier blades were intended for civilian use of course, but I would suggest that perhaps this rather pedestrian example (which I find attractive and strictly business) may have been for an officer of the town guard or city militias of these regions in those times. The idea is in accord with units such as Rembrandt's "Black Watch" and so on. These became a kind of 'mens club' in sense, though the military aspects were well intended. It would not be unreasonable to presume this sword might have been assembled for wear by a member in one of these quasi military units.
Attached is one of the 17th c. 'Pappenheimer' hilts which this sword may be 'scaled down' from in a sense; next is the well known Spanish arming sword known as the 'bilbo' (1728).