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Old 1st March 2017, 01:48 PM   #1
fernando
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Default The half moon symbol in early Spanish swords

I thought i would give here some food for thought, on what concerns the half moon symbol applied by early Spanish sword smiths in their sword blades.
When researching on this subject in the course of a thread submitted by Lean-Luc (Cerjac) for comments on one of his swords, i came across citations of Spanish Scholars on a early, such as contemporaneous, personality (Jehan Lhermite) whom, along his Castillian Spanish travels made encounter with sources in Toledo, that provided him with a detailed description of early sword smith Masters, their works and their marks.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showp...01&postcount=32.

What i here pretend to focus on is, the half moon symbol (mark) which the author mentions as having been a mark used by Master Juan Martinez in his blades.
The description reads, in a non sworn translation that, he used to put his name in the blade fuller and, while not in the sides of their ricasso, with a fleur-de-liz mark topped with a crown, which is the oldest one because after, together with this mark he puts a half moon, with a "rostrillo" formed inside it.
We know that the rostrillo is/was an adornment used by Spaniards to embellish the head of images of the Virgin Mary, aledgedly inspired in widow veils which, with not much effort, we can discern its part section inside some half moon variants we see in exhibited or registered blade marks out there.
We are aware that Sir James Mann, in his Wallace Collection catalogue, only points out two of several half moon marks in its contents as been connected with the status of Espadero del Rey, an assumption not subscribed by the Spanish scholars we managed to contact. On the other hand, when we try to figure out why Thomas Mann only selects two of all catalogue cases as been those appointed, we can not find solid consistency in such half moon examples being those with the rostrillo, as to distinguish their differentiation with the countless 'plain' half moons used by blade smiths of many nations.
One wonders the reason why these symbols, eventually in their specific rostrillo design, are forcingly connected (by Thomas Mann) with the espaderos honoured with the Royal appointment and, if so, why this duality is not recognised by other authors, namely those from Spain.


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Old 1st March 2017, 02:23 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Fernando, thank you for formulating this thread specifically on the elusively symbolic and apparently inconsistently placed 'half moon' markings, which seem to originate from Spanish blade contexts.

This is an absolutely wonderful idea to place this intriguing topic in a titled thread of its own so this important material is more readily accessible for those researching these markings.

Also, I would like to thank you for adding some information which explains the curious accents often seen in these Spanish half moons, specifically the unusual 'banding' along the back of many of these moons. I had never known, nor realized about the 'rostrillo', and this is (for me) pretty exciting insight into this characteristic. There are a good number of religiously oriented representations of course in many blade markings, and I must say that you have presented the solutions in identifying many of them over the years here, much to my benefit in my research on markings.

As always, the material you thoroughly add in these cases have consistently exceeded my expectations in hoping for informative input which better allow our understanding of these often mysterious markings....thank you very much!!!......and just wanted to say that.

I look forward to more on this topic !!!!

Very best regards
Jim
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Old 2nd March 2017, 03:27 PM   #3
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Actually Jim, i thought this subject was by now depleted of new entries once, in one had, we don't see so many interested in following it and, on the other, exhaustive web research has been so dry of results that it looks like this came to an end.
When suddenly the fountain of knowledge opened its tap and we are again contemplated with further info.
If we have a second to look to the notes of JOSE MARIA PELAEZ VALLE called COMENTARIOS METALÚRGICOS A LA TECNOLOGIA DE PROCESOS DE ELABORACIÓN DEL ACERO DE LAS ESPADAS DE TOLEDO DESCRITAS EN EL DOCUMENTO DE PALOMARES DE 1772, we may catch that, among Palomares dual position in that, in one hand, he rejects the mystic of the Tagus river being the explanation for Toledan swords quality, rather than the competence of their smiths forging techniques, soon after he romantically points out the gold particles in their sand melting to a fine varnish that impeaches the sparks escaping from the steel spirit, we carry on reading the above author's chronicle in that Palomares work is neither definite nor complete in that, for one, he fails to mention that Juan Martinez (el Viejo), used a contrast of a figure looking like a fleur de liz, with examples in the Dresden Museum, inventory numbers bla and bla.
Aun así, el trabajo no es definitivo ni completo; piezas auténticamente inequívocas portan hojas de espaderos famosos referenciados en la tabla con marcas distintas a las que figuran en la misma .
5 - Un simple ejemplo: Juan Martínez (el Viejo) usaba un contraste de figura parecida a una flor de lis que no aparece en la tabla de Palomares. Ejemplares de la colección Dresde HMD VI/306, INV 1606 y HM D INV 1832 I 170/17.

Now, this fits precisely into the description of Jehan Lhermite in his "Passetemps". Once this being the smoke caused by fire, we keep on hammering on this path and, going deeper into the magnificent Met sword already posted in Cerjak's sword thread, we find a set of marks of Juan Martinez that are very elucidatory:
Marking: On the ricasso, the following Toledo marks: a crowned T repeated six times; a half moon repeated four times (and twice again at the end of blade grooves); a crowned fleur-de-lis repeated four times.
. Then we proceed digging into the Master's work spread out there and we find the following article by LECH MAREK, called RAPIERS BY JUAN MARTINEZ THE ELDER – THE ROYAL SWORD-SMITH FROM TOLEDO FOUND IN POLAND, including some the swords forged by the Master, and which presents us with outstanding revelations, such as, the half moon being an individual mark, the To being the Toledan export mark and the fleur-de-liz being the mark of Espadero del Rey. Interestingly the half moon depicted in the illustrations has a slight rostrillo inside it.
So it looks like a fait accomplis that Sir James Mann inference on the half moon's attribution is more of a silogism that lacks foundation. But now we have the fleur-de-liz being the newly appointed star. May this one make more sense ... knowing that this is a symbol of the Royal Bourbon Family, still figuring in the Coat of Arms of Spain.


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Old 2nd March 2017, 04:12 PM   #4
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Well Fernando, I get the feeling it is you and I on this admittedly esoteric topic, but I know others are out there (I can hear them breathing ).
I think this is pretty fascinating among the plethora of markings, and it seems that the half moon, with rich allegorical symbolism historically, may have varied significance in these contexts.

As you have shown, the 'espadero del rey' classification in Spanish smiths is not necessarily, nor perhaps directly linked to these half moon markings as implied by the suggestions of Sir James Mann (1962) and in a number of other perpetuated references.

So it seems we need to wonder, just what was the significance of the half moon in placement on sword blades in Spain? While shown in Palomares as a punzon in one instance in his study, we know that his 1772 work is wrought with 'misperceptions' and of course there is nothing accompanying the details which tell us more on the conditions or meanings of these punzones or other devices.

You have noted another author, Jahan Lhermite, contemporary to the working masters who recorded more on their markings etc. By the time Palomares wrote, the Toledo blade industry had been literally gone for a century.

I found a reference, "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries" Vol. XVIII, June 21, 1900, Baron C.A. DeCosson (pp.206-215), which includes an interesting inclusion regarding an unedited manuscript by Rodriguez del Canto, a Madrid fencing master (1734) . It is titled "El Discipulo Instruido" and a list of all the most celebrated smiths of Toledo with marks.
Here there are notable contrasts to the work of Palomares, in particular one referring to Pedro de Garatea, who appears to be the Pedro de Lageratea in Palomares.
This manuscript was in the possession of Count Valencia at the time of DeCosson writing (1900).

These contrasting records are most likely in degree to be the root of some of the misperceptions of later scholars, including Sir James Mann, toward these matters of these markings .

Returning to the dilemma of the half moons, we look to find what meaning or significance these distinct markings may have had to the Spanish smiths.
We well understand that there are many ecclestiastical symbols, inscriptions and devices incorporated into blade motif and imbuement.

In study of the half moon historically, the face has typically been represented as the 'man in the moon' despite the fact that astrologically it seems that the sun (solar=male) while the moon (luna=female). With that it seems that technically the representation of the Virgin Mary, with the notable and traditional rostrillo, makes good sense (and of course as noted by the Spanish scholars) and has been as far as I know, entirely not known to most scholars on arms outside of Portugal and Spain.

In a most interesting circumstance pertaining to the half moons, some time ago I found reference to its use in Holland as a symbol for the notorious privateers known as the 'sea beggars' or 'waterguezen'. These were primarily associated with Calvinist Dutch nobles who from 1566 onward vehemently opposed Spanish rule in the Netherlands.
They contrived the use of the half moon with face to allegorically suggest it was better to be in league with the clearly contrary Turks than to be under Spanish suzerainty.
At this time the crescent moon was considered representative of the Turk, and in 1570 a medal was designed with the half moon emblazoned with the motto, which is worded essentially 'rather Turkish than Papist, in spite of the Mass'.

It seems odd that the Dutch used this symbol, it would seem almost inadvertently as far as the Turk analogy, while here it seems to have been of key religious significance to the Spanish, who they were opposing.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 11:26 AM   #5
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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see http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...nti+papal+moons where at post# 53 I noted the anti papal half moon structures present on Basket Swords. This is a fascinating episode in Forum activity ...The Watergeusen episode is a very interesting period in European history.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 03:39 PM   #6
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Ibrahiim,
Thank you so much for this entry, and for always finding such pertinent threads and posts to augment the discussions at hand! Your skills at navigating the material archived in these pages is exemplary.

It is great to see these paired crescent moons on these German blades which seem to date from early 18th century and perhaps earlier and seem to occur notably on blades mounted in Scottish and English swords.
This was remarkable information as I recall, as in the course of study on these crescent moons in pairs on takouba blades in North Africa, as well as many kaskara in Sudan, these were native applied.
What was interesting is that it always seemed that the native pairing of these crescent moons (known locally there as 'dukari') may have been configured as such in a native interpretation imitating the moons on many German blades with cosmological themes in motif.

It appears with this information from 2015, and the blades shown by Cathey and discussed with Eljay (very grateful to them both for these valuable contributions) that the dual crescent moons with face indeed did have European origin and posed in that exact manner.

Here we see the appearance of the crescent moon, or half moon with face, being applied on blades in Germany by the beginning of the 18th century and likely earlier. As we have discussed, the use of the crescent moon seems to have evolved in Spain and used in yet undetermined significance on sword blades at the time of the great Toledo masters.

I recall years ago thinking almost fancifully about the similarities between many of these 'faced' half moons used on blades and in other 'magical' motif including some seen in the unique tarot 'moon' cards. I found that the tarot cards, indeed used in various countries in Europe, did have use as early as the 14th c in Spain. These were soon prohibited however in the well known religious events of the times, though covert use certainly prevailed. While unclear on the 'artistic' nature of the illustrations used, the crescent moon was of course in some manner portrayed on the 'moon' card of the sets.

What seems key here is that the 'man in the moon' portrayal of the crescent moon (paradoxically with the female moon association normally observed) seems to have filtered into the theme at some point. It is known that Jewish mysticism, of course with its mysterious cabala, was profoundly present in Spain, and it may well be that this symbolism had some degree of influence in the character of these half moons .

Although the nature of these suggestions may seem fanciful in their nature it must be remembered that in these times, magic and superstition along with many notions and beliefs were very much in place.
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Old 4th March 2017, 08:16 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Ibrahiim,
Thank you so much for this entry, and for always finding such pertinent threads and posts to augment the discussions at hand! Your skills at navigating the material archived in these pages is exemplary.

It is great to see these paired crescent moons on these German blades which seem to date from early 18th century and perhaps earlier and seem to occur notably on blades mounted in Scottish and English swords.
This was remarkable information as I recall, as in the course of study on these crescent moons in pairs on takouba blades in North Africa, as well as many kaskara in Sudan, these were native applied.
What was interesting is that it always seemed that the native pairing of these crescent moons (known locally there as 'dukari') may have been configured as such in a native interpretation imitating the moons on many German blades with cosmological themes in motif.

It appears with this information from 2015, and the blades shown by Cathey and discussed with Eljay (very grateful to them both for these valuable contributions) that the dual crescent moons with face indeed did have European origin and posed in that exact manner.

Here we see the appearance of the crescent moon, or half moon with face, being applied on blades in Germany by the beginning of the 18th century and likely earlier. As we have discussed, the use of the crescent moon seems to have evolved in Spain and used in yet undetermined significance on sword blades at the time of the great Toledo masters.

I recall years ago thinking almost fancifully about the similarities between many of these 'faced' half moons used on blades and in other 'magical' motif including some seen in the unique tarot 'moon' cards. I found that the tarot cards, indeed used in various countries in Europe, did have use as early as the 14th c in Spain. These were soon prohibited however in the well known religious events of the times, though covert use certainly prevailed. While unclear on the 'artistic' nature of the illustrations used, the crescent moon was of course in some manner portrayed on the 'moon' card of the sets.

What seems key here is that the 'man in the moon' portrayal of the crescent moon (paradoxically with the female moon association normally observed) seems to have filtered into the theme at some point. It is known that Jewish mysticism, of course with its mysterious cabala, was profoundly present in Spain, and it may well be that this symbolism had some degree of influence in the character of these half moons .

Although the nature of these suggestions may seem fanciful in their nature it must be remembered that in these times, magic and superstition along with many notions and beliefs were very much in place.



Salaams Jim, and many thanks for your analysis and for placing those details in perspective.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 04:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... As the 'espadero del rey' classification in Spanish smiths is not necessarily, nor perhaps directly linked to these half moon markings as implied by the suggestions of Sir James Mann (1962) and in a number of other perpetuated references. ...So it seems we need to wonder, just what was the significance of the half moon in placement on sword blades in Spain? While shown in Palomares as a punzon in one instance in his study ...

Well, as already supported and until further evidence the half moon is Juan Martinez personal mark. Also it seems plausible what Beraiz pretends that the half moon in #39 of Palomares nomina, together with its aledged smith name, is a false case, such symbol pertaining to Juan Martinez .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... we know that his 1772 work is wrought with 'misperceptions' and of course there is nothing accompanying the details which tell us more on the conditions or meanings of these punzones or other devices...

To aggravate such problematic, the majority of the punzones has flown from their depository, the few remaining probably belonging to less early smiths.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... an interesting inclusion regarding an unedited manuscript by Rodriguez del Canto, a Madrid fencing master (1734) . It is titled "El Discipulo Instruido" and a list of all the most celebrated smiths of Toledo with marks...Here there are notable contrasts to the work of Palomares, in particular one referring to Pedro de Garatea, who appears to be the Pedro de Lageratea in Palomares.

The discrepancies in marks, names, local of birth and working places is so vast that it would need a thesis to analize them all. Actually, if the discrepancy cited by del Canto is precisely as you here quote, that would represent another flaw in itself; the name actually written in the nomina is Pedro Lagaretea when it should be Pedro de Garaeta; which may be seen in blades at the Dresden Museum. But then you have Domingo de Lama for Domingo de Lezama, Alman for Almau; Alcazes for Alcozer; Lafra for Zafra; Lazonetta for Lagaretea; Vergas for Vargas ... and others.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... Returning to the dilemma of the half moons, we look to find what meaning or significance these distinct markings may have had to the Spanish smiths... We well understand that there are many ecclestiastical symbols, inscriptions and devices incorporated into blade motif and imbuement.

In the study made by Lech Marek we may see that Juan Martinez, certainly as many others, applies religious inscriptions in his blades, apparently not for his introversion but more on the talismanic perspective, as so often this kind of habits is dicussed. In the blade example shown above he quotes psalm No. 71: IN TE DOMINE SPERAVI NON and, as mentioned, when having space available depending on the type of blade he forges, he inscribes the other part CONFUNDAR IN AETERNUM ... if i am correct.

For those no bothering to consult Lech Marek's work, nevertheless a very succinct paper, not so exhaustive as that of del Canto, where you fall asleep before you find what you are looking for, i here upload one of Master Juan Martinez magnificent blades, mounted in a beautiful chiselled iron Dutch renaissance hilt ... and also pictures of where the surviving punzones de espadero are kept, in Military Museum at the Alcazar de Toledo


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Old 4th March 2017, 09:22 AM   #9
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The hilt of post #7 can be Italian I/o Dutch.
see, for comparison, a rapier at the V & A museum from the armoury of the Electors of Saxony.
The Hilt is probably from Italy and the blade is an export blade from Toledo.
it's hard to say where these type of hilts are made.

from the V&A description:
The blade is a high quality Toledo blade by the prestigious maker Alonso Perez. Perez worked at the shop of the famous swordmaker, Gil de Almau who produced several swords for the Emperor Charles V and his son Philip II of Spain.

Sword blades were articles of international trade, made in a few important centres and shipped all over Europe where they were fitted with hilts in the local fashion. During the 16th and 17th centuries the sword blades of Toledo, Valencia and Milan were the most sought after but the largest centre of production was the German town of Solingen. The finest hilts were usually equipped with a Spanish blade but if not available a German blade (sometimes with a spurious Spanish inscription) was fitted instead.

fe this is probably the case with the German blade? of the Rapier of Jean-Luc
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=22366

The most prosperous swordmakers in Toledo were concentrated in an area bordered by a road called Calle de Armas (Weapon Street) where there were also ironsmiths, crossbow makers, knife and axe makers. Guild regulations in Toledo were strict. Those seeking to practise as swordmakers had to pass strict tests of quality stipulated by the King. The King also protected the Spanish trade by issuing a decree in 1567: "... do not allow or permit to import any kind of sword in our kingdom from the exterior, and the ones made in Toledo wear the mark and signal of the master who made it and manufactured it, and the place where they are made, and whoever violates this they will be condemned as false ..."


best,
Jasper
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Old 4th March 2017, 03:03 PM   #10
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Hi Jasper,
It is good to have the top brass entering in this thread, which means this has some interest in arms study.
You have noticed that, the asumption that the hilt shown is Dutch, is one from Lech Marek in his mentioned work; i wouldn't be able to judge it by myself. Mind you, he mentions Dutch style; maybe this makes the difference:
Fig. 5. Chiselled iron hilt of the rapier from Fig. 4. Dutch renaissance
style. Photo by L. Marek.


Yes, the 'Calle de las Armas' and the tests the smiths were submitted, as already approached in the same thread you linked to the Jean-Luc rapier discussion.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showp...62&postcount=28.
Every 5th March two examiners and two observers would perform such exercise, visiting candidates in their shops ad workshops.

But it is interesting that you show that beautiful sword with an Alonso Perez blade, as we here again face the dilemma of the marks discepancies. If my eyes don't betray me there is a clear difference between the mark engraved in your sword and that recorded by Palomares in his nomina. I wouldn't at all dare pretending that the blade you post was not forged by the illustreous master, but then, we may stand before another of these recurrent riddles.
However if i am wrong, which i am ready to admit, please bother correcting me .


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