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Old 30th December 2010, 12:34 AM   #1
laEspadaAncha
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Default Strange Dagger in 16th Century Dutch Painting

In making the rounds at a local museum yesterday, I saw and photographed some interesting examples of weapons depicted in 16th century European art. Here is a painting by Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch that dates to 1515 entitled The Arrest of Christ. The ballock dagger with the rondel is interesting enough and raises some questions... I was unaware of such "hybrid" daggers - were they common?

But what really had me scratching my head is the dagger shown in the upper-right corner. The deep belly, strongly-curved edge, hilt design (including the guard and pommel) are all foreign to me (both literally and figuratively). Does anyone know what kind of dagger this is? Does anyone have any photographs of other examples they can share?





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Old 30th December 2010, 12:33 PM   #2
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Fascinating Hieronymus.
The conspicuous dent on the blade edge and the detail of the maker's mark ... as if this specific dagger example has really existed.
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Old 30th December 2010, 03:12 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Fascinating Hieronymus.
The conspicuous dent on the blade edge and the detail of the maker's mark ... as if this specific dagger example has really existed.

I suppose...but this is Bosch we are talking about. Take a good look at any of his paintings and it becomes obvious that we can never take for granted that anything in them was painted as an exact representation of the real world.
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Old 30th December 2010, 04:36 PM   #4
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So am I to assume from these posts that you two are of the opinion his caricature-like depictions extended to include the weapons he painted as well?

I ask as in the few other examples of his work I have viewed (this is the only one I have seen in person), his portrayal of small items of detail - namely articles of clothing, accouterments, and weaponry - seems to receive a treatment of realism that runs contrary to his style. For instance, look at the bottom of the third panel of his triptych the Garden of Earthly Delights, where in addition to a more typical rondel dagger there are about a half-dozen other edged weapons depicted with accuracy and detail without a hint of exaggeration...

What is interesting in this example of his work is the portrayal of the same blade protruding from between the ears in the same (3rd) panel...
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Old 30th December 2010, 04:45 PM   #5
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Here's a close-up of the hybrid ballock-rondel dagger shown in The Arrest of Christ... What I find interesting about this is we see style elements of the earliest pre-Jacobite dirks (e.g., disc pommel and ballock lobes) that were to evolve from Highland ballock daggers over the next century.


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Old 30th December 2010, 06:10 PM   #6
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The hilt and pommel remind me of the Swiss type of dagger but the 'Malchus' shaped extremely curved blade clearly seems to reflect Oriental influence.

On the one hand, we cannot generally rule out that such a type of dagger actually existed. On the other, as David and Fernando have put out, this is Hieronymus Bosch. He is well known for his satirical, drastically overdrawn and 'fantasy' style of paintings, their characters and old style equipment. Often his paintings contain allusions to old sayings, and the faces, bodies and accouterments of his persons are both surrealistically and cinically distorted. His range of grotesque fantasy was unique among the late medieval/early Renaissance painters.

Of course, the formal style of the first dagger shows characteristic late Gothic elements, so it may not be pure fiction. The ballock dagger obviously is completely authentic.

Anyway, this is a really great thread as it shares my love of period artwork sources - they are most important when it comes to discussing original objects!

Best,
Michael
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Old 31st December 2010, 02:06 AM   #7
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Hi Michael - I appreciate your input. I have attached below three images from one of Bosch's better known works, The Garden of Earthly Delights, dating to ca. 1490-1510. This 7' x 12.5' (2.2 x 3.9m) monster triptych hangs in the Prado in Madrid. All three images are from the third panel.

I reference this work for two reasons: First, at the bottom of the third panel, one can find several edged weapons depicted with a high degree of realism. Second, what appears to be a very similar blade as in the OP can also be found in this panel - note the similarity with regards to the blade profile, the nick in the cutting edge, and the mark on the obverse of the blade (the guard is either absent or not visible, but the similarities are nonethless awfully coincidental)...

These details, virtually mirroring each other on two separate works of his separated by at least five years and as many as twenty-five, along with the general trend of accurately and realistically depicting other edged weapons in both paintings, would seem to support the possibility this knife actually existed, wouldn't it?

The 3rd panel of ...Earthly Delights:


Rondel dagger and other edged weapons portrayed with a high degree of realism:


The same blade as depicted in The Arrest of Christ:
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Old 31st December 2010, 04:31 PM   #8
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Hi EspadaAncha,

Thank you so much for these fine documentary Bosch samples, you sure presented a characteristic selection.

I fully agree with your theory of the possibility that 'our' dagger in discussion may have really existed and been depicted after an original, especially as the general form is typical of late Gtothic/early Renaissance, as I tried to point out.

There is another argument that comes to my mind: considering the fact that all other of Bosch's edged weapons - and, concerning my field of expertise, the only known firearm he depicted, an Italian matchlock arquebus of ca. 1540 - are perfectly characteristic in their appearances, there is a very high probability that this dagger, of all, is not mere fantasy either.

Best,
Michael
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Old 31st December 2010, 05:34 PM   #9
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Hi Michael,

My appreciation of aesthetics of form (of edged weapons) were in no small part influenced by the vintage hunting knives I was exposed to while growing up...

I am particularly partial to the vintage hand-ground hunting knives that were turned out by U.S. manufacturers (the Buck Frontiersman comes to mind) with gently swelling bellies and graceful lines - both expressive of the art of knife making that has continued to evolve here in the U.S. and which IMO are reflected to some degree in this particular dagger. While it doesn't take much for me to find an appreciation of aesthetics when it comes to edged weapons (usually just a point or an edge of some sort, and a turned or carved piece of horn, ivory, or wood ), I find this particular dagger to be very appealing to the eye.

Here's an example of the Frontiersman - given the impact this particular knife had on my tastes, I am sure you will see why I am so curious to learn more about this dagger...



Thank you for additional the example that IMO further corroborates the degree of accuracy with which Bosch portrayed weaponry in his work. I have looked through my (feeble collection of) reference books but cannot find a similar dagger from the period. Would you by chance have any illustrations or photographs of similar examples you can share?

Regards,

Chris
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Old 31st December 2010, 05:36 PM   #10
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To the mods:

Though there are some attachments in this thread, I noticed that the paper clip announcing them was missing on the main page.

Best,
Michael
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Old 31st December 2010, 05:56 PM   #11
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Hi Chris,

Now I understand your partiality for those daggers - it's no wonder at all as the illustrated Frontiersman sample doubtlessly corresponds to, or is well based on, the so-called Maximilian type of ca. 1500 German Grosses Messer and contemporary daggers, showing the same stylized bird's head pommel.

Sadly my scanner is on strike at the moment but I will try and post some originals of ca. 1500 soon.

From my computer archives, I attach details showing the latest form of a bird's head pommel on a backsword, from a painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder of 1535, titled Judith with the head of Holofernes.

Best,
Michael
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Old 31st December 2010, 06:44 PM   #12
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Hi Chris,

For plenty of reference, please also see my thread

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=8630

Here is some more period artwork showing 15th and early 16th century bird's head pommels, plus a few others.

From top:

From the Constitutio Criminalis Bambergensis (Bambergische Peinliche Halsgerichtsordnung), 1507: 2 woodcuts

From the Wurzach altar by Hans Multscher, 1437: 1 detail

By Albrecht Dürer, Nuremberg, 1519: 1 image

From the Arnstädter Auferstehungsaltar (the Arnstadt Resurrection altar), Thuringia, Germany, ca. 1430: 2 details

Detail from a woodcut, ca. 1505.

Best,
Michael
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Old 31st December 2010, 07:52 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matchlock
To the mods:

Though there are some attachments in this thread, I noticed that the paper clip announcing them was missing on the main page.

Best,
Michael



Thank you so much, Lee?,

for mending that so promptly.

With all my best,
Michael
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Old 31st December 2010, 09:53 PM   #14
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Hi Michael,

Wonderful examples of period bird's head pommels that do recall the "mystery dagger" as well as the much (much ) later Bucks... You know, I have to admit - I never have once stopped to consider the pommel of the Bucks which are indeed stylized bird's head pommels, as I have always fixated on the blade profile.

So much for my powers of observation, eh?

Regards,

Chris
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Old 31st December 2010, 10:46 PM   #15
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Hi Chris,

Thank you so much, and please do take care of your super powers of observation in 2011, which began in Germany 47 mins ago!

Best regards,
Michael
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Old 2nd January 2011, 04:48 PM   #16
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Hi there,

I finally found other samples of such dagger knives, i.e. one-edged daggers, in Thalhoffer's Fencing Books of 1459, together with various more curious daggers and devices you would not have believed they had existed.

Please note the 'bladesmith marks'.

This also backs up what I said about Bosch and his predilection of depicting oldfashioned pieces of accouterment that were still in use with the rural population decades after their make.

I realize this is not a proof of their actual existence, just one more evidence of their being characteristic of the Gothic style.

Enjoy, and best,
Michael
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Old 2nd January 2011, 05:14 PM   #17
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Good Morning Michael & a Very Happy New Year!

Wonderful reference, and I thank you for posting it. The deeply curved belly of the 3rd example in the 1st panel (counting left-to-right, top-to-bottom) does indeed resemble our "mystery dagger" in blade profile.

Considering the fanciful appearance of the cut out work along the blade spine in this illustrated example, I can't help but think that if it existed, then Bosch's dagger likely existed as well (especially in light of the other reasons discussed in the thread). Given the details which seem to indicate he painted the same dagger in two of his works, I have to wonder if he had some personal connection to this particular dagger...

Do you by chance have larger scanned copies / images of these pages available? If so, I can PM you my email address, as I would like to have them on hand for reference. I find the turned wooden grips to be interesting, as well as the exposed tang on a couple examples (that appear to be twisted?).

Regards,

Chris
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Old 2nd January 2011, 05:45 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laEspadaAncha
Do you by chance have larger scanned copies / images of these pages available?


http://www.kb.dk/da/nb/materialer/h...hott-2_290.html

Best Regards,
Thilo
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Old 2nd January 2011, 05:56 PM   #19
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"Ask and ye shall receive," eh? Thank you Thilo...
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Old 2nd January 2011, 06:17 PM   #20
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Exactly, and we have received ...

Thanks, Thilo, you were faster than I was.

Best,
Michael
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Old 2nd January 2011, 08:03 PM   #21
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http://www.kb.dk/da/nb/materialer/h...hott-2_290.html

OK, for all those who do not indulge in a long search, here are the relevant scans in optimum postable size.

Best,
Michael
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