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Old 23rd April 2019, 12:33 PM   #1
CharlesS
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Default A Very Nice Nimcha

I wanted to share this lovely nimcha with my forum "peeps". It has become one of my very favorite swords even though it far more "blingy" than I usually care for, and generally, I am no fan of enameling. Somehow this one "spoke" to me and I had been looking for this blade type for some time, just didn't expect it to be in so special a "package"

I believe the sword dates to at least the early 19th century, likely even earlier.

The sword features the older style nimcha "cutlass-like" short, curved blade. There is a maker's stamp to the forte. The hilt is heavy silver enameled in dark blue, light blue, and green. You'll note the enameling is considerably cruder than what we might expect to find with Persian and Indian enameled pieces. Every square inch is detailed in some manner. The heavy hilt gives the sword a very nice balance.

The scabbard mounts are en suite with intricate floral motifs highlighted by the enameling. There are four bands of Islamic script along the scabbard fittings.

The baldric is old, but not "born with" the sword, though their colors match perfectly and they look like a natural combination.

Nimchas of this blade type are the most difficult to come by and I dare say, mounted in this manner, even rarer.

Dimensions:
Overall length:32in.
Blade length:25in.
Blade width at the forte: just under one inch
Blade's widest point: 1.75in.
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Last edited by CharlesS : 23rd April 2019 at 11:57 PM.
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Old 23rd April 2019, 02:23 PM   #2
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A super piece, Charles ... i'd say. Can you 'macro' that makers stamp ? ... just curious .
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Old 23rd April 2019, 03:15 PM   #3
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One of the best Algerian nimcha ever!
I guess the guys of the Maritime museum will be jealous too
https://collections.rmg.co.uk/colle...ects/78504.html
I think that you are righ, I would say 18th c. for sure if not 17thc...
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Old 23rd April 2019, 04:09 PM   #4
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Hi Charles

While blades are not in my regular sphere of collecting, I must say that is a beautiful nimcha. What a wonderful piece. As they say......Don't think it gets any better than this......Congratulations. What an impressive piece.

Rick
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Old 23rd April 2019, 04:24 PM   #5
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Whoa! That nimcha just screams grandiloquence! I've never before seen such a weapon of this type draped in such flair! You've really found a superb piece, especially for it being as old as you say it is!

The closest I have is a recently created Saif and Jambiya covered in gold as well. Though it's far from being as magnificent as what you carry. I must ask, where did you get such an impressive weapon?
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Old 23rd April 2019, 05:11 PM   #6
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Charles, this example is sublime, among the best, if not the best nimcha we have seen on this forum. Thank you for sharing!

As far as dating goes, the earliest reliably dated nimcha is one in the Rijksmuseum which belonged to Michiel de Ruyter, which places it in the mid 1600s:

https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/NG-NM-10412

Yours should not be much later than that, so perhaps late 17th or early 18th century, at least as far as the blade is concerned. The enameled mounts and the baldric could be later. There are examples of a 19th century enameled Moroccan saif scabbards in the sold section of Oriental Arms:

http://oriental-arms.com/photos.php?id=4522

http://oriental-arms.com/photos.php?id=3908

I do not know how early the enameling decorating technique made it to Morocco, but my guess is that you have an old 17th or 18th century sword remounted in the 19th century. Whoever did it, preserved the original form of the guard and the hilt. As you can see on the Rijksmueum sword, the original scabbards were made of cloth and leather and these materials tend to deteriorate unless stored in a perfect environment. Obviously it belonged to someone quite prominent, who loved this sword as much as you do. Most of the early nimchas we see are trophies taken during the conflicts between Habsburgs and Ottomans, and it is great tos ee one that appears to have remained in the Maghreb for a little while longer.

What a great sword!

Teodor
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Old 23rd April 2019, 06:33 PM   #7
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Dang it Charles, you just made my eyes pop out and roll on the floor. What's wrong with you!
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Old 23rd April 2019, 08:39 PM   #8
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Gentlemen,

Thanks so much for your kind words and your additional contributions of information and photos!

I knew this one was something special the moment I saw it!

Battara, if you think your eyes were popping out when you saw it here, you should have seen Rsword and me when we first saw it in Baltimore. It was in a gun bag, not to be seen at the show, but we were allowed a glance and as we slowly pulled it out of the bag, we just looked at each other in amazement. The owner originally did not want to sell it but was kind enough to give me a shot at it when they saw my interest.

Last edited by CharlesS : 24th April 2019 at 12:34 PM.
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Old 23rd April 2019, 09:12 PM   #9
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Fantastic sword!

I'm surprised you were able to coax the owner into letting it go. Were hostages involved?
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Old 24th April 2019, 01:06 AM   #10
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Charles, you are outdoing yourself time and time again!
Absolutely gorgeous!


However, I do not think it is North African. IMHO, it is South Arabian, likely Omani. My main point is the configuration of the blade: widening toward the tip. Similar configuration is seen in Elgood’s book on weapons of Arabia ( Fig. 2.1 and by description 2.2). Seems to me it is quite short: thus a genuine “nimcha”:-), a naval cutlass, so popular with seafaring Omanis.

Also, the lavish decoration is very reminiscent of the luxurious Zanzibari nimchas with gold coins on the handle from Buttin’s catalogue ( plate XXX) and Hales’ catalogue ( Figs. 589-90). Similarly “segmented” decor of the scabbard is also seen in the same book ( 2.18 and2.21)

Also, you might recall Elgood’s comment about Bukharans in Oman. They brought enameling there.


I doubt there is an iron-clad provenance, so that’s only my gut feeling.

Last edited by ariel : 24th April 2019 at 06:07 AM.
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Old 24th April 2019, 12:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Charles, you are outdoing yourself time and time again!
Absolutely gorgeous!


However, I do not think it is North African. IMHO, it is South Arabian, likely Omani. My main point is the configuration of the blade: widening toward the tip. Similar configuration is seen in Elgood’s book on weapons of Arabia ( Fig. 2.1 and by description 2.2). Seems to me it is quite short: thus a genuine “nimcha”:-), a naval cutlass, so popular with seafaring Omanis.

Also, the lavish decoration is very reminiscent of the luxurious Zanzibari nimchas with gold coins on the handle from Buttin’s catalogue ( plate XXX) and Hales’ catalogue ( Figs. 589-90). Similarly “segmented” decor of the scabbard is also seen in the same book ( 2.18 and2.21)

Also, you might recall Elgood’s comment about Bukharans in Oman. They brought enameling there.


I doubt there is an iron-clad provenance, so that’s only my gut feeling.



Its not a weapon I have ever seen in Oman. This does however, satisfy the equation of being Algerian . The https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/searc...st=Objects&ii=0 I Couldn't shrink it in size to fit EAA parameters... but you can see it on the web..The example has a part tortoiseshell hilt although it may well be of the same family . The provenance is in my opinion Algerian... surely it has to be off the coast as it is every inch a corsairs weapon. However having said that I have not got the Hales or Elgood reference work before me.. ~ Regarding coins on Omani or Zanzibari items I take it on those with Ivory hilts and gold work probably added by goldsmiths on the Zanj or even in Stonetown… These are not coins but circular shapes along with leaf shaped designs from the African comb making fraternity; see below..
I doubt if there is such an animal as a Zanzibari Nimcha and to my eye Butin got as close as any expert in his three plates which I placed at an earlier thread but I believe his detail still accurate and on his 3 plates there is no mention of Zanzibar...therefor
please see http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=23387 post 12 and viewing plate XXX 993 994 995 … The project Nimcha is seen as one of those .It may even be on Plate XXX11 991... Shown as an other oriental design.

I must confess I have never seen Bukharen work in Oman...although in the Yemen, yes, for good historical reasons and known links… Further I have no recollection of enameling work here .. Do you mean Yemen also?
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Old 24th April 2019, 10:45 PM   #12
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I must admit I have never seen luxurious Yemeni nimcha.

Waiting for Lotfy.
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Old 25th April 2019, 03:27 AM   #13
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It does seem that these hilts are 'Arab' and mostly associated with Algeria from examples are known as early as 17th c. . In "Arts of the Muslim Knight" (B.Mohammed, ed. 2008, p.77) . In this reference it is noted sabres of this type are seen as early as c.1700 with an Ottoman tughra, and another of this typw was captured at Battle of Oran (Algeria) in 1732.

Elgood (1994)does show one with this type blade (flared tip) in 2.1 but with a karabela type hilt, and another with this type hilt (2.2) same type of blade.
On p.15 Elgood describes the (2.1) type often found in sughs in Riyadh with these 'nimsha' blades and a small brass guard, and that they are attributed by Arab traders to Yemen.
It is noted that these are pretty unaesthetic (I have had these and they are munition grade) with these flared blades.

Whether 'Ottoman' or 'Arab' classifications are considered, these hilts with notable peak at pommel seem to occur throughout the Arab sphere, from Malabar, through the Meditteranean, the Magreb and Zanzibar. With North (1975) attribution they seem aligned with 16th century North Italian styles, and indeed many of these blades are Italian it does seem. As Buttin describes many of these type hilts and swords, always as 'Arab' but no specification of Zanzibar, many of these surely ended up there just as throughout these other regions, but were by no means indigenous there.

I have not been able to find any reference to Bukharen enameling in Yemen, but on p. 75 he does note a janbiyya bought during a pilgrimage in Mecca and was subsequently embellished in Bukhara with cabochon and cloisonné turquoises, but notes it is possible the work may have been done in Mecca.
This may suggest Bukharen artisans may have been in Mecca, but whether in Yemen unclear.
It does seem some nice swords were used in Yemen, mostly Hadhramaut, and other well mounted in San'aa, but certainly nothing like this.

Most definitely one of these very old Arab blades of 'cutlass' form and fantastically refurbished and likely it would seem if 19th c very early perhaps even late 18th. Breathtaking piece!!!
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Old 25th April 2019, 03:29 AM   #14
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HI Charles,

I've long followed this wonderful sword and it is certainly in the right home now.

I've also kept this reference in mind for years and this is the right place to include it as a specific example of 17th C. North Africa/Ottoman workmanship. The attached images from a German private collection show a sword with similar enamel work, with a different style grip, but with the classic Mediterranean trade blade, often attributed to Genoa (though I think Mediterranean is the best we can do at this point without specific evidence of an Italian city production).

I would certainly think this sword has little to do with the East African style of sword, lso referred to as a nimcha, and even less with the swords originating from the Southern Arabian peninsula, a (interestingly that is the terminology along the west coast of India as well for a sword indicating the trade routes the word, if not the form traveled on, though there are Hyderabadi hilt forms that are similar to the East African, or rather Indian Ocean style of hilt).

However, the Bukharan enamel connection is definetely a possibility as I've seen this blue and green enamel work on other Ottoman daggers, including on sold by us some years back over gold, see below:

http://armsandantiques.com/beautifu...ar-dagger-id851

And also another found in the Wallace Collection. I think the enamelling is most likely early 18th C. Ottoman workmanship, likely on order depending on where in the Empire, or associated states, it went.
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Old 25th April 2019, 03:33 AM   #15
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One final point on dating is that the form of the scabbard and the style of mounting hearkens most closely to the early Ottoman period mounted swords, often with karabela shaped hilts, with the central medallion and band.

In addition, the specific style of decoration with a repetitive decorative pattern, along the scabbard fittings that is similar to Ottoman 17th C. karabelas, and is also found on East European swords of the period as well, which were themselves likely influenced by Ottoman workmanship.

One does not find the central scabbard fitting of this style, on 18th C. or later Ottoman sword generally.
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Old 25th April 2019, 03:37 AM   #16
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And finally in reference to an 18th C.dating, the gold yataghan given by the Bey of Tunis to Danish King Frederik V, illustrated in Niels Arthur Andersen's book on "Gold and Coral" provides a further reference for this scabbard style and mounting, though that sword was presented in 1753.

Now in the Danish National Museum (EM60a,EM60b, and EMb61)
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Old 25th April 2019, 03:48 AM   #17
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A&A, we crossed posts.....well noted on the Ottoman enameling and styling, and the distinct influence of some of these decorative techniques in Europe, with their fascination with 'Oriental' exotica. There are distinct similarities in these hilts with certain N.Italian hilts of 16th c. with the quillon systems as well as the ring guards seen on the 'nimchas' long held to be 'Zanzibar' examples.
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Old 25th April 2019, 04:16 PM   #18
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I wonder if a translation of the Arabic script on the bands might provide useful information.
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Old 25th April 2019, 04:27 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edster
I wonder if a translation of the Arabic script on the bands might provide useful information.

And the stamp on the blade ... remember, Charles ?
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Old 25th April 2019, 05:22 PM   #20
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Fernando,

Here are a couple of pics, but they are very difficult to make out, though the stamp on one side is much clearer than the other.

Let me know if you are able to decipher anything from it.
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Old 26th April 2019, 10:38 AM   #21
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Charles, my idea was more to show the stamp to members within this type of (Islamic) swords than attempting my self to identify it.
Marks (stamps) are a vital asset; they often open the doors to crack enigmas.
While inscriptions, for as important as they are for the item's record, may fall into 'generic' religious statements, smith (or arsenal) marks may drive you into the actual origin of the piece.
... Just saying .
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Old 26th April 2019, 11:30 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesS
Fernando,

Here are a couple of pics, but they are very difficult to make out, though the stamp on one side is much clearer than the other.

Let me know if you are able to decipher anything from it.


It could be a Venetian arsenal winged lion?

What remembers me of this another ¿Nimcha? What do you make out of it?
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Old 26th April 2019, 05:42 PM   #23
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The deeply stamped circular cartouche seems a convention which runs typical in Algerian context sabres (which is how Briggs. 1965, terms the probable nimshas in his collection then). In accord with the drawings in his article, "European Blades in Tuareg Swords and Daggers", JAAS, Vol. V, #2, 1965, p.37-92......on p.78, he describes two of these 'sabres' as having these as having circular marks containing Arabic characters in illegible combination, but while in this same blade location.....only on one side.

Though he suggests the blades, both with identical three fuller configuration, are either Italian or German and of 16th or 17th c. As one of the blades has ANDREA FERARA, this profoundly suggests Solingen, and likely end of 17th into 18thc. Briggs notes that these markings were probably stamped later, but prior to 'damascening' on the blade.
This further suggests some type of arsenal or acceptance (?) kind of stamp which was apparently placed on these blades (in this blade location) as the blades were received.

In Charles' example (OP) the flared tip blade in my opinion in unlikely to be German, quite likely Italian (as these are comparable to some storta blades I believe) and seems earlier. That suggests this application of these cartouches was in place much earlier than the blades noted in Briggs.
Perhaps it could be some sort of talismanic blessing (?) to the blade, otherwise I would presume the acceptance stamp. In that case there may be some kind of administrative purpose.
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Old 26th April 2019, 05:51 PM   #24
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Is it possible that they are arsenal marks rather than maker's marks??? In other words, where they came from or belong vs. who made them. I realize, of course, that often the maker and the arsenal would be the same.

...just an idea.

Last edited by CharlesS : 26th April 2019 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 26th April 2019, 06:06 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesS
Is it possible that they are arsenal marks rather than maker's marks??? In other words, where they came from or belong vs. who made them. I realize, of course, that of often the maker and the arsenal would be the same.

...just an idea.



I think we crossed posts Charles. As I indicated in my post just prior to yours, I believe these are likely 'arsenal' or more likely stamps having to do with administrative purpose such as already 'taxed' (?) or accounted for. The Ottomans were keen on these kinds of matters if I understand correctly.

These have nothing to do with makers marks or origins of the blades in my opinion. Makers stamps were at the forte (root) of the blade not in this location as seen on these Algerian received trade blades.
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Old 26th April 2019, 08:47 PM   #26
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Dear Jim, may i extract a piece of your post to realize you are correcting my (more than) humble approach in that, arsenal marks are not makers marks; sure thing, as so i cared to mention both possibilities in my previous post. In any case, and playing positive, despite an arsenal stamp (stricto sensu) might not define the original blade provenance, it sure tracks the path it traversed to meet final assembly, a bit of info that helps building the sword history. On the other hand, i am perplex at the distinction you seem to make at the discussed stamps being, or not, located in the forte. I fear i don't follow you; both Charles's and Midelburgo's examples have them located in the blade forte; or do you define forte (first strong third) as a different location in the blade ?
All yours .


.

Last edited by fernando : 27th April 2019 at 07:48 AM.
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Old 26th April 2019, 10:00 PM   #27
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Burgo post is very interesting, thank you

Yes you have maker marks, export / import marks and arsenals marks.
This one seems very deep for an arsenal mark, look at Irene arsenal marks they are just engravings... )II(
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Old 26th April 2019, 10:19 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Dear Jim, may i extract a piece of your post to realize you are correcting my (more than) humble approach in that, arsenal marks are not makers marks; sure thing, as so i cared to mention both possibilities in my previous post. In any case, and playing positive, despite an arsenal stamp (stricto sensu) might not define the original blade provenance, it sure tracks the path it traversed to meet final assembly, a bit of info that helps construct the sword history. On the other hand, i am perplex at the distinction you seem to make at the discussed stamps being, or not, located in the forte. I fear i don't follow you; both Charles's and Midelburgo's examples have them located in the blade forte; or do you define forte (first strong third) as a different location in the blade ?
All yours .


.


Fernando, I did not mean my comments, which I admit got a bit complicated, as any kind of correction but just as an observation on my own account.
Arsenal marks are not as you say, usually an origin for a blade, but where it 'arrived' at some point and was either held for and used in furbishing swords.
Very good point in these marks establishing a factor in the blade/sword history.
I think the forte thing is more a matter of my own perception, I always think of the forte as with makers marks, to be located near the center of the blade near the guard, sometimes even under the langet etc.
The block forte is often seen on European blades, and such marks are on this section of the blade.

These circular cartouches are situated unusually near the cutting edge of the blade but indeed in the upper section of the blade near the guard, which may broadly be regarded as part of the forte. Perhaps you are right, defining the forte might be regarded as the upper third of the blade...just always thought of it as the root near the guard.
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Old 27th April 2019, 12:12 AM   #29
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I had never seen the Italian connection with the early Nimcha hilts being attributed to an older Italian form, however the example Midelburgo posts shows what is clearly a derivative form of the crabclaw style Italian hilt in it's crossguard. The hilt itself is a variant on the 17th C. or earlier form with the sharp pommel and the flattened sides.

However the crossguard is the first time I've seen this form, and to me proves, or goes some way in doing so, that the cross-pollination between the European forms also extended to other types of hilt shapes and forms,especially at what would have been an early date. However, that isn't surprising considering the many European captured slaves that were forced into service among the Corsairs and Ottoman empire, I can imagine some of them that were forced into combat, or went willingly, would have their favorite forms interpreted through local types.

Excellent find and an important addition to the nimcha formology pantheon.
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Old 27th April 2019, 01:30 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ArmsAndAntiques
I had never seen the Italian connection with the early Nimcha hilts being attributed to an older Italian form, however the example Midelburgo posts shows what is clearly a derivative form of the crabclaw style Italian hilt in it's crossguard. The hilt itself is a variant on the 17th C. or earlier form with the sharp pommel and the flattened sides.

However the crossguard is the first time I've seen this form, and to me proves, or goes some way in doing so, that the cross-pollination between the European forms also extended to other types of hilt shapes and forms,especially at what would have been an early date. However, that isn't surprising considering the many European captured slaves that were forced into service among the Corsairs and Ottoman empire, I can imagine some of them that were forced into combat, or went willingly, would have their favorite forms interpreted through local types.

Excellent find and an important addition to the nimcha formology pantheon.




Well noted, and goes again to the landmark article "A Late 15th Century Italian Sword" (1975) by the late Tony North. ….which clearly shows the type of hilts which indeed seems to have set the pace for these Arab hilts.
As also well noted, not only the Algerian corsairs et al, and essentially the Ottomans carried on a monumental commerce in slaving, and yes many did willingly go into their service. There were many cases, and notably some Dutch, along with others who even nominally converted to Islam and became corsairs themselves.
The complexity and scope of all these factors make it hard to determine just when and how these forms cross diffused, but in my view the early Italian forms profoundly influenced many ethnographic forms of edged weapons.
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