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Old 4th April 2007, 12:01 AM   #1
fernando
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Default Swords a la Portuguese ... Part two

Let's just start this part two by picking up the original topic where it started with the sword posted by RRSAND.


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Last edited by fernando : 15th August 2017 at 05:08 PM.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 03:32 PM   #2
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It may look a bit weird, to "ressurect" a 10 year old post, but... Information on this is scarce.
What do you think of this (it was found in Angola, in the 60's, and i recently aquired it)?
Sorry about the quality of the photos, but i don´t have my "real" camera with me...
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Old 3rd August 2017, 04:02 AM   #3
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I'm not a consoisseur on this kind of weapons, but I will express some ideas, meanwhile others, better informed, gives his or her opinions. The work seems very rough, as if it was made in a colony overseas. Like some of the so-called "colonial rapiers", made in America instead Europe. The fullers on the ricasso are unusual, as the pommel. Flatted pommels with perforations and a small central bar can be found on Portuguese swords of this type, and this pommel in certain way remainds them, but only in a certain way. The endings of the guards does not present the typical circular flat form of the Portuguese boarding swords from the 15th Century. They are more stylized, but this also was not unusual on this swords, as seen in the example above in the post from Marc. The perforations on the ring guards seem to correspond to stems (pitons), a sort of defenses which now are lacking, probably because of a bad hot-welding work. I don´t have specifics on the forging capabilities of the natives of Angola in the 17th Century (if the date on the blade is correct), but this sword can be a copy of the Portuguese boarding sword made by a local blacksmith, Portuguese or native, but a bungler.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 07:28 AM   #4
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Is the red colouration in the photographs an artifact or is there really red active rust on this blade? This is something I would not expect to see on a blade of this age.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 11:21 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonzalo G
I'm not a consoisseur on this kind of weapons, but I will express some ideas, meanwhile others, better informed, gives his or her opinions. The work seems very rough, as if it was made in a colony overseas. Like some of the so-called "colonial rapiers", made in America instead Europe. The fullers on the ricasso are unusual, as the pommel. Flatted pommels with perforations and a small central bar can be found on Portuguese swords of this type, and this pommel in certain way remainds them, but only in a certain way. The endings of the guards does not present the typical circular flat form of the Portuguese boarding swords from the 15th Century. They are more stylized, but this also was not unusual on this swords, as seen in the example above in the post from Marc. The perforations on the ring guards seem to correspond to stems (pitons), a sort of defenses which now are lacking, probably because of a bad hot-welding work. I don´t have specifics on the forging capabilities of the natives of Angola in the 17th Century (if the date on the blade is correct), but this sword can be a copy of the Portuguese boarding sword made by a local blacksmith, Portuguese or native, but a bungler.



Well, thank you!
And, let's say that everything you wrote exactly matches what i think about this... I didn't write anything because i am not a specialist (not even a "real" collector, sadly), and i didn't want to probably make a fool of myself. But i did some research (not easy to find information on this) and these are my thoughts exactly, i have nothing to add to your comment!
The fullers on the ricasso actually puzzle me, they are not even metallic , but made of some brittle material i couldn't identify.
The blade looks like it was repaired/altered at some point. Almost like it was "reforged", there are some "seams", starting from the middle of the blade to the poin...

RobertGuy, well, the oxidation is not as active as it looks to be, the photos were taken with flash, and that really brightens the orange, but yes, this is quite corroded. Truth is it was found in the open, and worse, on a beach, exposed to salt water for who knows how long...
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Old 3rd August 2017, 01:13 PM   #6
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Wouldn't this be an example made by African locals inspired in navigator swords, which prevailed through centuries to be used for ceremonies or prestige, the so called MBELE A LULENDO (sword of power) ?. In this specific specimen, the date 1697 could have also been borrowed from early original examples. This one could be as late as from the 19th. century. The variation in model details may as well be 'authors imagination'. Although these swords may be acquired in (Nothern) Angola, it is obvious to expect that their design found its way there descending from neighbour Southwest Congo, where its influence was provided by navigators is registered.
But of course, anyone with knowledge may certainly correct me ... partly or totally .


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Old 3rd August 2017, 02:08 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Wouldn't this be an example made by African locals inspired in navigator swords, which prevailed through centuries to be used for ceremonies or prestige, the so called MBELE A LULENDO (sword of power) ?. In this specific specimen, the date 1697 could have also been borrowed from early original examples. This one could be as late as from the 19th. century. The variation in model details may as well be 'authors imagination'. Although these swords may be acquired in (Nothern) Angola, it is obvious to expect that their design found its way there descending from neighbour Southwest Congo, where its influence provided by navigators is registered.



That fits perfectly well, Fernando!! The Bakongo- Bantu used these swords as you said. This ethnic group in fact extends from north Luanda in Angola to the Congo.
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Old 15th August 2017, 06:41 PM   #8
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After all, a determined part of Northern Angola was indeed part of the Congo kingdom, having this later been split after controversial events.
It is known that, a number of these swords in their primitive form was found in a Kindoki (ritual) cemetery, in Lower Congo Mbanza Nsundi.
Swords were considered power symbols, both in representing status symbols and also metaphisical means, to be used during several rites, including executions; hence the name Mbele a Lulendo.
The 16th century European swords were gradually replaced by indigenous production. The Mbele a Lulendo in its more expressive form would be the one with one guard arm facing up and the other facing down, an attitude to represent an anthromorphic figure, so called niombo.
The arms (quillons) of the sword posted here were not made to such position, although it configures a serious approach to a Mbele a Lulendo. A doubt remains on whether the all four arms, inspired by Portuguese swords, have their ends incomplete because time wasted their discs and pitons, which some times occurred, or the native smith only cared to forge a 'suggestion' to those appendixes.
In a closer look, the date 1697 seems to be an actual one, this blade being genuine European ... German ? It might have been shortened, with its 58 cms. length. Its width is rather impressive: 35 mm. The short ricasso fullers also look good. There are two copper 'ferrule like' washers holding the tang to the guard, which could (could) be from the hilting period, which i make it around 1880, a period in which these native swords were latest put up.

Again i submit all the above to the approval of knowledged members.


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Old 24th August 2017, 03:44 PM   #9
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I found one that we haven't seen yet in a book about Nuno Goncalves' St. Vincent altarpiece. Not much information about it is provided: it's in the Museo Militar in Lisbon, described as 15th-16th century.
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Old 24th August 2017, 04:45 PM   #10
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Thank you for your post, Reventlov.
As you can see, thess are the types of Portuguese swords that 'inspired' African natives to produce their own version, like the Mbelle a Lulendo.
In reality, the allusion you might have read about this sword example is that it is the type, or one of the types, depicted in the six panels of São Vicente, a large oil on wood painted by Nuno Gonçalves around 1470-1480.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipe...gos40_kopie.jpg
(you may enlarge this image)

The sword is indeed in the Military Museum and the panels are in the Museum of Antique Art.

PS

Although a more precise style as depicted in the panels is more like this one, a typical Portuguese sword of the third quarter XV cebtury.

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Old 25th August 2017, 02:20 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Although a more precise style as depicted in the panels is more like this one, a typical Portuguese sword of the third quarter XV cebtury.
Yes, I am familiar...

At risk of straying a little off topic, I found this book quite interesting and you might as well. It tries to build a case for a very early dating of the altarpiece, c. 1450. I'm not sure I was really convinced, but I also couldn't immediately dismiss their arguments out of hand. The discuss the swords in particular, trying to show that they could be as early as they suggest - they included the sword above as an example of the "end point" of this trend in hilt design.

Now that I've been searching a little further online, I notice that several of the statues they included as comparative examples are dated several decades later by the Museum of Antique Art, so that's not encouraging... They do offer the effigy of Fernão Gomes de Góis as an example showing the double patillas finger-rings, and this is dated 1439-40.

The panels were dendrochronologically analyzed and must have been painted after 1442, so the early date cannot be excluded on those grounds, but neither can a later date or course...
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Old 25th August 2017, 04:46 PM   #12
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I will be honest with you, Reventlov; the variation range of the discussed dates, although interesting for academics, rests beyond my empirical reach, as only representing, in maximum, some thirty years in a work made over five centuries ago. I understand this could influence a bench mark towards the date of determined weapon (sword) styles, but i am also aware that a lot of ink has already bein consumed in discussing these enigmatic panels date, the intention that moved the author, the figures they represent, and even the painting method used, namely (in rough terms) tempera over oak wood, oil painted or plaster and glue ... each one with a 'plausible' explanation; X rays, chromatic layers, you name it. Even registered doubts on who was the author remained for a long time.
And of course the analysis of the panels wood used for the panels doesn't prevent that the authjor could have used old raw mateial.
At this stage its inventory card appoints to the wise date range 1450-1490.
http://www.matriznet.dgpc.pt/Matriz...px?IdReg=252075.
On the other hand if you refer to 'the sword above' as the one you posted, i would be confused, as the swords those guys inte panels are holding are visibly like the sketch i posted in reply.
However, if the book you mention were available online, i would certainly read it.
Kind regards
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Old 26th August 2017, 11:45 AM   #13
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I understand how you feel Fernando... The puzzle of these panels piques my curiosity, but I will no pretend that I have any particular insight one way or the other! The sword I refer to is the first one I posted (ie. not like what actually appears in the panels) - it makes sense in context in the book, it was just included at the end of a general overview of Portuguese swords in the 15th-16th century. The book is not online unfortunately... It's relatively short though, and not overly technical: the section on arms and armor is worth browsing at least.
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Old 26th August 2017, 06:15 PM   #14
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But ... can you read portuguese ?
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Old 26th August 2017, 07:03 PM   #15
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Not really, but I have enough Spanish and French that I can at least get the gist of things... like I said, the book was really not very technical at all!
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Old 5th September 2017, 04:32 PM   #16
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Default More on the history of these colonial swords ...

The Kongo kingdom was defined by the mutation process where European elements were incorporated in domestic culture.
Portuguese arrived in Congo in 1482 and soon converted the local monarchs to Christianty. The first monarch to be baptized was Nzinga-a-Nkuwu, with Christian name João I in 1491. The process went smoothly because the Christian elements called for domestic ideas on their own ideology. Afonso I (1509-1540), the secong king converted to christianty, had seen this well, and confirmed his power for the Europeans and for the domestic population by the setting up with catholicism. The European elite symbol, the sword, was taken over. Together with the crucifix, these two European elements have certainly incorporated most of the habits of the Bakongo (Wannyn 1961, 67).
Deceased Kongo monarchs were found buried with these swords in a Christian attitude.
The symbolism behind the sword for the Bakongo is reduced to the domestic ideas concerning iron and their own theology which was reflected in the form of the sword. Also the rituals which were carried out with the swords reflected this symbolism; in any case the swords came initially from Europe. At the time of the Portugese, European swords were used. Later these became scarcer and domestic copies started being made.
The last soba to have a portuguese Christian name was Soba Nkanga-a-Lukeni, Garcia II (1641-1661). This adds to two centuries of culture blending.


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Old 25th October 2017, 01:55 PM   #17
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These are indeed what they call “ethnographical Mbele a Lulendo swords”, based on the Portuguese swords introduced at the Bakongo kingdom as early as end of 15th century.
First the original Portuguese swords, than imported European blades (Germany, Italy..), later fully locally made. These had a great symbolic function and were used by chiefs, often buried with them after their death, as those found in Kindoki (Bas-Congo).
Later these were placed next to the tomb of a dead chief, which resulted in the loss of the lower part of the blade. I once owned three of these rare swords, but I only kept one in my collection.
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Old 25th October 2017, 04:41 PM   #18
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Thank you Pieje,
I see that you confirm the prior introduction to these swords origin.
The two examples you posted are apparently fully localy made. Tell me, which is the one you still have with you ?
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Old 25th October 2017, 11:00 PM   #19
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This one with (dark) ivory handle and locally made blade.
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Old 25th October 2017, 11:03 PM   #20
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However I suspect the other one to have a European blade?
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