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Old 23rd October 2019, 08:14 PM   #1
vilhelmsson
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Default European Maker's Marks on an Indian Firanghi

I recently acquired the firanghi pictured below. I'm posting it here because I have questions about the visible European maker's marks on the blade.

Short background: The sword is believed to be 17th century with a 16th century Italian or Spanish blade. Aside from the large brace and extensive gold koftgari, the most striking thing about the sword is its size: 115 cm.

It was not uncommon for firanghi to use local blades with imitation European maker's marks, but I think that this is a well put together sword with a nice, genuine European blade. And the imitation marks tend to be much smaller in scope and more simple.

Regarding the marks, I see 2 marks that are repeated a few times:
  • Crosses. 2 visible in the oval opening of the bracing on both sides, 1 right before the large stylistic mark incorporating dots and multiple small crosses on one side, and a faded or rubbed out cross about halfway down the blade. But a cross isn't terribly distinctive for Europe!
  • Crowns. 1 visible in the circular opening of the brace on one side, 1 visible and the top end of the oval opening on the same side, and 1 visible at the bottom end of the oval opening of the brace on the other side. I think the crown might be more distinctive than the cross.

I'm having a hard time with the rest of the marks, and I'm not sure if I'm looking at some C's or omegas, V's or a W, an H or 3 I's, etc. I was hoping that someone might be familiar with these marks and could point me towards the smith.

There is a mix of the dealer's pictures (because his pictures are prettier), and my pictures.
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Old 25th October 2019, 11:52 AM   #2
fernando
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Splendid sword you have there, vilhelmsson; no doubt about that .

Quote:
Originally Posted by vilhelmsson
... but I think that this is a well put together sword with a nice, genuine European blade...

An impertinent question; are you sure ? any such type of profusely decorated examples you are familiar with ? Also the letterings don't seem to match with those of any known (so to say) smith's name, but ...
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Old 25th October 2019, 06:48 PM   #3
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Thank you.

And I'm not sure. Many things are within the realm of possibility!

The sword was likely commissioned during Aurangzeb's reign. At least one of Aurangzeb’s swords was stamped Andrea Ferara and most, if not all had European blades (one was likely sold yesterday at Christie's; they haven't posted results yet). If the person who commissioned my sword was a clever courtier, they probably would have wanted a European blade or at least something that looked very European.

The blade could be wholly non-European or the marks could be from a local smith engraving European looking marks into a European blade. Or the marks could be a combination of European and other engraving. Or just random embellishment by a clever Portuguese trader before shipping it to India.

None of the above possibilities cause me to value it less. I just want to learn more about it.

It is that backwards 'y' that causes me to wonder. Or maybe it's a 'V' stamped on top of an 'O'? There's also the "CW" or "CVV" which is an odd combination in many languages.
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Old 26th October 2019, 12:03 AM   #4
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@fernando, on many more looks....

Regarding the profuse engraving, the amount of engraving seems similar in length to a Carvalho mark you posted many years ago. http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=6572. The Portuguese were the ones shipping these to India.

And the bottom of the mark on my sword is very similar to a supposed Andrea Ferara mark that is currently for sale and for which I won't post a picture or a link. (My sword is certainly not an Andrea Ferara.)
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Old 26th October 2019, 02:59 AM   #5
Jim McDougall
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Vilhelmsson, an incredibly superb example of 'firangi', and very good catching that thread from 2008. It was a great discussion, and Fernando's addition of the markings from one of his many obscure resources was most important, having material not commonly found in most familiar references.

In my opinion, these arrangements of letters and crosses, along with the so called 'anchor' devices are VERY European, and not characteristic of the type usually seen on Indian made blades. They are delicately made, and the use of serifs was not seen in copied markings, again, as far as I have seen.

These 'anchors' were a typical Christian symbol which often had subtle variations used on Iberian blades, then copied on German blades. The crosses were used in marking arrangements, as well as in names, invocations etc.
What is interesting here is the use of these 'maltese' crosses and opposed head arrows in the koftgari motif along with the floral Indian décor on the supports that cover the upper part of the blade.

These European blade mark configurations were pretty much free form, and while following certain conventions of the period, getting an exact match would be difficult, Often letters presumed initials or words were actually acrostics representing popular phrases, invocations or other wording.

I would agree this blade is quite possibly Italian (if Spanish it would have makers detail somewhere, but so much is concealed under the bolsters), and likely 17th c.

These markings seem to me to correspond to European styling rather than Indian or other copying. As Fernando has noted on many occasions, the Portuguese were bringing in many blades, often Italian, into Indian ports.
The Indians were very intrigued by European culture, and not surprising to see the crosses incorporated into the koftgari motif. However, the blade markings seem characteristically European to me.
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Old 26th October 2019, 07:07 PM   #6
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vilhelmsson, i am so amazed that you have located the LORENÇO CARVALHO mark i posted eleven years ago ... which i have completey forgotten. If you didn't show it now, i would deny i have posted it .
Still is an adventure to make out a name or a word out of that 'letter' combination.
This, of course, not questioning the beauty of this sword.
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Old 27th October 2019, 04:32 PM   #7
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Thumbs up Beautiful!

That is one beautiful sword regardless of where the blade was made! My initial impression is for a European origin for the blade and we know from Oakeshott’s writings that inscriptions on many old European blades are incomprehensible to modern minds even if they made sense at the time or perhaps they were decorative all along.

Below (top) is a picture from the blade of a khanda. A wootz grain is perceptible (dark swirls and not light random spots from mildew attacking the waxed finish) and the blade is relatively stiff and heavy. Even when little attempt has been made to use the crucible steel decoratively, areas of carbide grains may testify to the blade being Asian.

The second photo (bottom) is from a firangi with a very flexible blade. There does not appear to be evidence of wootz and fine slag stringers are present and at the red arrow is a nasty cold shut blister from the repeated folding needed with steel of bloomery origin exposed as the blade has been thinned by re-polishing over time. (Such flaws are not reliably absent from all blades of crucible steel origin, but they are usually less prominent).

The last photo of the sword under discussion does sort of suggest such a blister and wootz grain does not appear to be present in the photos, hence my favoring a European blade origin.

[I will, in due course, arrange photos of the whole of these two swords – the early mounting style of the khanda possibly explaining why the hole peeking out by C+ in the second to last image may be there, but that is another discussion.]
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Old 27th October 2019, 05:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee
That is one beautiful sword regardless of where the blade was made! My initial impression is for a European origin for the blade and we know from Oakeshott’s writings that inscriptions on many old European blades are incomprehensible to modern minds even if they made sense at the time or perhaps they were decorative all along.

Below (top) is a picture from the blade of a khanda. A wootz grain is perceptible (dark swirls and not light random spots from mildew attacking the waxed finish) and the blade is relatively stiff and heavy. Even when little attempt has been made to use the crucible steel decoratively, areas of carbide grains may testify to the blade being Asian.

The second photo (bottom) is from a firangi with a very flexible blade. There does not appear to be evidence of wootz and fine slag stringers are present and at the red arrow is a nasty cold shut blister from the repeated folding needed with steel of bloomery origin exposed as the blade has been thinned by re-polishing over time. (Such flaws are not reliably absent from all blades of crucible steel origin, but they are usually less prominent).

The last photo of the sword under discussion does sort of suggest such a blister and wootz grain does not appear to be present in the photos, hence my favoring a European blade origin.

[I will, in due course, arrange photos of the whole of these two swords – the early mounting style of the khanda possibly explaining why the hole peeking out by C+ in the second to last image may be there, but that is another discussion.]




Lee, just to say it is fantastic to have your input on this sword, which indeed is a beautiful example!
Also, it is so helpful to have your well explained reasoning concerning the metallurgic aspects of this blade. My thoughts were based on the character of the markings, which as you note correspond to descriptions and notations on these by Mr. Oakeshott.

As you have pointed out the convention of using letters and symbols in arcane arrangements from late medieval into early renaissance periods carried well into 17th century. The political and religious intrigues prevalent prompted cryptic representations, which in degree became associated with quality imbuements.

Thank you!!!
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Old 28th October 2019, 05:41 PM   #9
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Lee,

Thank you for the close ups on the khanda and firangi. Very helpful observation on the metallurgical analysis; it's going in the evaluation toolbox.

Jim,

Thank you for your observations. I hadn't well observed how the Indian smith echoed the engraving on the blade in the koftgari. You helped me find more beauty in this sword.

fernando,

It's been 3 days since I made that last post, and I'm still trying to come to grips with 2008 being 11 years ago!
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Old 28th October 2019, 06:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vilhelmsson
fernando,

It's been 3 days since I made that last post, and I'm still trying to come to grips with 2008 being 11 years ago!

I guess i don't get the meaning of your words.
Maybe it helps if emphasize that my post, that you located, was submitted by me in 2008; and when i said that i couldn't figure out the meaning of the letter combination, i was actually referring to the inscriptions in your sword blade, not those in my old post.

On a different approach and in order to redeem my previous misjudgement on the origin of your blade, i would try and expose some of the signs that triggered my suspicion.
You will notice that, the writing on blade does not start from the hilt towards the point in both faces, resulting that the lettering on the left side appears to have some (two) of the letters upside down. Then if you turn upside down the sword itself, those such letters seem to make sense. Only that the acutely angled 'symbol' that appears in both sides gains two different aspects;and instead of possibly been a latin V or and a A, got me thinking of both or either 7 and 8 in Arabic numbers. In a way that i thought of an Indian 'scribe' playing the Eurpean and not an European playing senseless.
... As senseless must be all that i am trying to say so, just forget it.


.
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Old 28th October 2019, 09:01 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vilhelmsson

fernando,

It's been 3 days since I made that last post, and I'm still trying to come to grips with 2008 being 11 years ago!

I think i've got it .
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Old 31st October 2019, 05:00 AM   #12
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Fernando, did you notice that letters like the C and the L are formed with serifs at the ends of the strokes (the E has dots terminating them), where as those V marks lack them and for this reason plus the slight concavity of the sides, really suggest the Arabic 7 or 8 numerals, especially as they would be written by a scribe with a qalam or reed pen?

What a cryptic mixture! Very interesting, and on a magnificently-mounted sword!
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Old 31st October 2019, 02:27 PM   #13
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Default Lovely sword

Pretty well put, Filipe ... and recomforting too.
... meannig i am not all that senseless.
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