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Old 16th July 2017, 08:50 PM   #1
DaveA
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Default Swords in Art -- what is this?

My wife is visiting Moscow, Russia and saw this painting. Any idea what this sword is? I want to say the blade looks like a Black Sea Yataghan, but the hilt is wrong.

Your thoughts?

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Old 16th July 2017, 09:52 PM   #2
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Please see the below link - post 12, image 4.
This is early shamshir-like blade form, later seen on Russian and Caucasian swords. There are several in Hermitage and Topkapi collections.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...light=hermitage
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Old 16th July 2017, 09:56 PM   #3
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Default Yes, but...

The blade in the picture is recurved. I don't see that among the examples in your linked photo.

More info: this painting is exhibited alongside 16th century icons.
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Old 16th July 2017, 10:00 PM   #4
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Hi David,
I am not an expert on swords at all, and I am sure that other forum members could spin fantastic theories about this sword.
However, this is a very old painting, probably early renaissance, depicting the beheading of a saint, who was probably martyred in the event. Realism is not very strong in paintings from that period. I can not reconize the country of origin the painting or the specific saint, but most of those events happend even much earlier and in places far away.
So there is a good probability that the sword is not of a real type known to the painter, but was born out of his imagination intended to look exotic ..
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Old 16th July 2017, 10:00 PM   #5
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Default Wrong location, wrong era

Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
Please see the below link - post 12, image 4.
This is early shamshir-like blade form, later seen on Russian and Caucasian swords. There are several in Hermitage and Topkapi collections.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...light=hermitage



These weapons are from the region we call the Middle East and are not nearly as old as the one depicted in the painting.
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Old 16th July 2017, 10:01 PM   #6
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In the link, scroll down to post number 12, 4th image. Similarly shaped recurved blade. The painting is a bit stylized but the curve matches. 16th Century also matches this blade type period.
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Old 16th July 2017, 10:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motan
Hi David,
I am not an expert on swords at all, and I am sure that other forum members could spin fantastic theories about this sword.
However, this is a very old painting, probably early renaissance, depicting the beheading of a saint, who was probably martyred in the event. Realism is not very strong in paintings from that period. I can not reconize the country of origin the painting or the specific saint, but most of those events happend even much earlier and in places far away.
So there is a good probability that the sword is not of a real type known to the painter, but was born out of his imagination intended to look exotic ..


Good point, and we should expect artistic license as well as inaccurate rendering. Nevertheless, a Russian artist in the 1500's depicted a recurved blade. I wasn't aware the form was that old.
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Old 16th July 2017, 10:13 PM   #8
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Default Yes, this could be it

Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
In the link, scroll down to post number 12, 4th image. Similarly shaped recurved blade. The painting is a bit stylized but the curve matches. 16th Century also matches this blade type period.


When I refreshed the page the other pictures came up. Fabulous thread! Now I wish I had gone with my wife!

I agree, the sword in picture #4, post 14 could be a match. That sword is very interesting. Is the tip conical, as in a pesh kabz, for piercing chain mail armor?

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Old 16th July 2017, 10:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveA
When I refreshed the page the other pictures came up. Fabulous thread! Now I wish I had gone with my wife!

I agree, the sword in picture #4, post 14 could be a match. That sword is very interesting. Is the tip conical, as in a pesh kabz, for piercing chain mail armor?

Dave A


The earlier ones, around 15th Century, had sharp narrow tips with very shallow recurve. Unlike short Pesh Kabz of 18th-19thC they are not reinforced and not designed for armor piercing (generally, the sword is not well suited for that). Later, after 16thC the recurve got more defined as in above example.
An interesting thread where the early art is matching the early item.
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Old 17th July 2017, 12:10 PM   #10
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Alex, are you referring to the old Circassian saber that Kirill Rivkin identifies as mysterious Jateh?

I am very dubious. IMHO, there is no mystery here, just a drawing inaccuracy of the artist. I vote for a simple Shamshir-like saber. The artist was no Rembrandt, that's for sure.
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Old 17th July 2017, 12:35 PM   #11
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Ariel, there are also 2 examples in the Astvatsatryan "Caucasian Arms" book, from the 15thC Russland. Their "bayonet-like" tips are not recurved as in the painting... the later example from the Hermitage seems to be later development of the form with more developed recurve... The forms of the handle and crossquard also conform to the 16thC period. I believe the author of the painting depicted the sword based on observed sample(s) of that time.
...
Here is the image of Hermitage sabre. The obviously stylized painting may refer to similar sword, notice the similarities in the blade and handle forms - almost pomeless handle, short crossguard, slight recurve to the blade. IMHO the similarities are quite evident to be an imaginative depiction.
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Old 18th July 2017, 07:41 PM   #12
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Hello,

Before going deeper into this, I think we should notice that the blade in the painting DOES NOT FIT the scabbard where it is about to be inserted in!

So the recurved curvature is more likely the result of a painting error.

The painter started with a curvature, but then realised that the curvature wouldn't bring the tip of the blade to the opening of the scabbard and since he couldn't simply erase the blade and paint a new one, he simply made the adjustment to the curvature. As simple as that.

An indication regarding the skill of the painter can also be derived from the position of the hand holding the sword...

Alex, the sword in the museum photo has an obviously bent & twisted blade and is not at all recurved.

Last edited by mariusgmioc : 18th July 2017 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 19th July 2017, 03:27 PM   #13
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Alex, I see your point, but still tend to agree with the "detractors".

Your assumption is based on the configuration of the blade as it is presented by the medieval European artist. BTW, what is the exact age of this picture? And what part of Europe is it from?

My point is that the Circassian/Crimean saber you are referring to was limited to a tiny and pretty isolated area. Yes, I know that the Genoese had their trading posts in Crimea, but I find it less than convincing that the Crimean/Circassian pattern was well known enough in Europe to serve as a model for an artist.

This pattern is exceedingly rare, and the few existing examples date to the 17-18 century ( see books by Gutowski and Rivkin) . The earliest known example in European collections is in Sweden, allegedly a military trophy of Gustavus II Adolfus and is dated to 1600, well after the potential date of the miniature in question. No doubt: this pattern was in actual use even earlier, but for that we have to go deeper into Circassian archeology, with only singular examples in local burials. This was a rare pattern to start with, mainly due to its complex forging, clumsiness and the resultant impracticality. While we have literally hundreds of existing "Tatar" sabers with regular blades dating to 8-15 centuries, the "bayonet-tip" recurved ones can be counted in a couple of dozens at the most.

I am with Marius here: IMHO it was just a technical artistic goof.
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Old 19th July 2017, 04:08 PM   #14
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Personally, I'd not doubt the author's intent as the painting is of superior quality and execution overall. It was done by a master iconographer who was capable of drawing a straight line, and I assume it to be of 16-17thC Russian origin. As for these recurved blades - yes, they're rarer than straight bladed swords nowadays, and likely were as such back then, but this is not an overwhelming argument that they were unseen/exceedingly rare in 16-17thC. Their fragile construction could be a contributing factor to their low survivalability to the present day. This is unproved of course, and until better evidences it'll remain an individual opinion.
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Old 19th July 2017, 07:37 PM   #15
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This does not look to be of Russian origin, and is definitely older than 16-17 century.
My guess ( an I am not an art historian), it is Western European, well before 15 century ( I would not be surprised by 13-th-14th, or even earlier).
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Old 20th July 2017, 11:08 AM   #16
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Ariel, You're right. Not a Russian painting. It is Italian, mid 15th Century by Sano di Pietro (Siena, Italy 1405-1481): Beheading of St John the Baptist.
Here's another of his works showing straight swords, he certainly knew how to draw a straight line The rest would be speculation. However, even though the time period matches, I must agree with you, Marius, Motan and Dave that it is quite unlikely that recurved sword on the first painting refers to recurved sabers of Russland origin. Thank you for an interesting post and discussion.
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Old 20th July 2017, 11:53 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
Ariel, You're right. Not a Russian painting. It is Italian, mid 15th Century by Sano di Pietro (Siena, Italy 1405-1481): Beheading of St John the Baptist.
Here's another of his works showing straight swords ...

This one surely being Herodes ordering the killing of all children (under the age of two) of Bethlem and its surroundings.
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Old 20th July 2017, 07:19 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
Here's another of his works showing straight swords, he certainly knew how to draw a straight line The rest would be speculation.


Hello Alex,

I didn't doubt his capacity to paint straight swords. It is curved swords that make me doubt. And specifically the sword in the original image that, the way it is painted, CANNOT FIT IN ITS SCABBARD... if it were for real.

And if you want to further asses the painter's skill, try to insert a saber in its scabbard using exactly the grip and the position of the scabbard from the painting.

Good luck!
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Old 23rd July 2017, 12:42 AM   #19
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Hello All

As soon, as I looked at the painting I thought of the Tatar Saber. I have couple of observations that mostly answer to mariusgmioc's post and that's the reason I quote it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Before going deeper into this, I think we should notice that the blade in the painting DOES NOT FIT the scabbard where it is about to be inserted in!


Here is a link with the sword and the scabbard. Very much alike the one in the painting! And it fits.

http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=4101

Quote:
The painter started with a curvature, but then realised that the curvature wouldn't bring the tip of the blade to the opening of the scabbard and since he couldn't simply erase the blade and paint a new one, he simply made the adjustment to the curvature. As simple as that.


Usually painters start their work with outlines and the sketches so there would be very little (if any) mistakes on the final painting. And of course he could erase any part of the painting while the paint is wet, or paint over it.

Quote:
An indication regarding the skill of the painter can also be derived from the position of the hand holding the sword...


That's exactly how one would hold the sword to be able to put the tip of the sword in. At the recurve he would move his hand a little bit and continue with the rest of the sword.

To answer the question as to how would Europeans know about the Tatar sabers; here is an article in Wikipedia about Lipka Tatars:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lipka_Tatars

And the timeframe matches.

IMHO, For an European (Italian) painter to paint a scene that took place in the Middle East, a good reference for a foreign weapon could be Tatar Sabre that would look exotic (at least to Europeans) and could have been used by Tatars in Ottoman army, who (Ottoman Empire) occupied Jerusalem during the time of the painting.
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Old 23rd July 2017, 10:07 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arsendaday
Hello All

As soon, as I looked at the painting I thought of the Tatar Saber. I have couple of observations that mostly answer to mariusgmioc's post and that's the reason I quote it.



Here is a link with the sword and the scabbard. Very much alike the one in the painting! And it fits.

http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=4101



Usually painters start their work with outlines and the sketches so there would be very little (if any) mistakes on the final painting. And of course he could erase any part of the painting while the paint is wet, or paint over it.



That's exactly how one would hold the sword to be able to put the tip of the sword in. At the recurve he would move his hand a little bit and continue with the rest of the sword.

To answer the question as to how would Europeans know about the Tatar sabers; here is an article in Wikipedia about Lipka Tatars:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lipka_Tatars

And the timeframe matches.

IMHO, For an European (Italian) painter to paint a scene that took place in the Middle East, a good reference for a foreign weapon could be Tatar Sabre that would look exotic (at least to Europeans) and could have been used by Tatars in Ottoman army, who (Ottoman Empire) occupied Jerusalem during the time of the painting.


1. Yes, the Tatar saber you are talking about is "very much alike the one in the painting" but at the same time IT IS ESSENTIALLY DIFFERENT. The sword in the painting clearly displays a reverse curve towards the tip, while the Tatar saber does not (the Tatar saber has only a narrower tip portion).

And yes, the Tatar saber fits its scabbard but the one in the painting does not, exactly because of its reverse curvature.

2. "That's exactly how one would hold the sword to be able to put the tip of the sword in."... Well, maybe, but only if the sword has the edge on its concave side of the blade, or if it is used like a Shotel. However, for a normal saber, the grip is with the fingers towards the edge side, and the thumb towards the spine side of the blade.

3. I do not know whether the painter started with a sketch and how detailed the sketch was. Moreover, I do not know how easily can a painting error be corrected. I am only speculating that the reverse curve in this case is simply the result of a technical painting error that the painter didn't consider important enough to correct without visible trace.

Last edited by mariusgmioc : 23rd July 2017 at 09:26 PM.
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Old 24th July 2017, 10:01 PM   #21
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Quote:
I am only speculating that the reverse curve in this case is simply the result of a technical painting error that the painter didn't consider important enough to correct without visible trace.

If it wasn't for the scabbard I would totally think that the guy has a double edged European sword and the painter just screwed up. The scabbard though tells me that this is some kind of curved (recurved) sword. But even if the painter made a mistake in drawing the sword blade, the person is still holding the sword wrong. As you rightfully observed judging by the hand position the edge could be on the other side, if it is not double sided sword of course. The only weapon that I know of that has a recurved blade and a sharp edge on the concave side is the Turkish yataghan. Of course in this case the handle is completely off.
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Old 25th July 2017, 09:42 AM   #22
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Here is a fanciful painting by the sixteenth century Elizabethan artist John White of a "Pictish Woman" (European Iron Age). She is wearing some sort of Eastern European scimitar type sword...

John White accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh's early attempts to colonise North America and produced some of the first depictions of Native Americans.
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Old 26th July 2017, 10:34 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
Here is a fanciful painting by the sixteenth century Elizabethan artist John White of a "Pictish Woman" (European Iron Age). She is wearing some sort of Eastern European scimitar type sword...

John White accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh's early attempts to colonise North America and produced some of the first depictions of Native Americans.


I always suspected that the Kilij originated in the Scottish Highlands... some 2000 years ago...

Now I have the irrefutable proof that my suspicion was well founded!


PS: Now, even the origins of the Ottoman crescent can be traced back to the old Picts (just have a look a the lady's pendant).

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