A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Del Tin 2150, the Sword of Estore Visconti of Milan
A hands-on review by Chad Arnow
The Visconti family ruled as lords Milan from 1277-1447. This powerful family no doubt drew its name from the title viscount, referring to a count or a lesser noble. The Visconti family gave way to the Sforza family in the mid-fifteenth century due to the marriage of the last Visconti heir, Bianca Maria, to the former condottiere Muzio Attendolo Sforza. The heraldic crest of the Visconti family contained a serpent devouring a baby: an emblem often used along side a cross symbolizing the early crusaders from the city of Milan. Over time, the serpent came to be recognized as a symbol of the city. The power and influence of these paired symbols exists to this day: Milanese automaker Alfa Romeo features them on the hood ornaments of their cars.
Estore Visconti served as Lord of Milan from the death of Giovanni Maria Visconti in 1412 until his own death in 1413. He was the second to last Visconti to rule, being succeeded by Filipo Maria Visconti, the last male of the line. Estore's short rule came to an end while besieging the city of Monza: he was wounded in the leg, resulting in his death. Renovations to Monza's Basilica of San Giovanni Battista in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries revealed Estore's tomb. A fine sword of Oakeshott Type XV was found in his coffin.
Swords of this type were designed to defeat plate armour by using a stiff cross-section and sharp point to thrust into joints in armour. Though mainly thrusting swords, they do possess the ability to cut against lightly armoured targets.
Del Tin Armi Antiche has been producing replicas of edged weaponry since 1966. Started by Silvano Del Tin in Maniago, Italy, it is now run by his son Fulvio (see our profile for more info). For many years, Del Tin swords were sold through Museum Replicas Limited, though that partnership has now dissolved. Del Tin swords are currently available through dealers in the United States and abroad.
I first saw the recreation of Estore's sword in the Museum Replicas catalogue around 1995 or 1996 when I got onto their mailing list. The sword itself was not offered in the catalogue at the time, but was shown (and still is) with a steel chappe being held in the picture accompanying the description of their leather gauntlets. I fell in love with the hilt of the sword. When it appeared for sale in their catalogue, I put in my order.
It should be noted that the version pictured has been customized by Art Elwell's A Work of Art to make it more like the original. The iron wire wrap on the stock version has been changed to twisted copper though it lacks the gilding of the original. The stock copper chappe has been silver-plated.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy.
A note should be made about Del Tin's swords in terms of performance. Two factors impose some natural limits on the performance of some Del Tin swords. Italian law has prompted Del Tin to not sell its swords sharp. Also, Del Tin swords have long been a staple of reenactment groups, necessitating a thicker edge for safety. These swords are not designed from the ground up for cutting and handling performance, but to be a compromise between the needs of the lawmakers, re-enactors, and those who want to sharpen and use their swords for cutting. Many examples, though, show good handling and cutting abilities when sharpened.
A common perception is that Del Tin swords are overweight due to the thicker edges and the amount of distal taper used in their construction. Some Del Tin swords may be, but not this one. My example actually weighs less than the original, despite it being larger.
This sword handles as I think a thrusting sword should in dry handling. The balance point is near to the hand, making the point lively and agile. I've never expected this sword to be a great cutter, and test cutting against soft targets proved me right. The 2150 transmitted noticeable vibrations to my hand when cutting pool noodles. The sword seemed to track fairly well, though, and it was easy to align the edge to the target. Even though the sword is unsharpened, it was easy to take chunks out of the foam when cutting. When thrusting against the pool noodle it was very easy to get the tip to go exactly where you wanted it to.
Del Tin's version of this sword differs slightly from the original. The recreation's pommel lacks the pommel nut and decorative rosette of the original, though the outline of the rosette is sort of mimicked on the top of the pommel. Del Tin's recreation features two shields instead of four, on the front and back of the pommel, cast as part of the pommel. The pommel is not quite as domed as the original. Del Tin has chosen to make both sides of the chappe match in terms of decoration.
For its price bracket, this sword is quite detailed and attractive. The hexagonal cross-section of the guard is crisply done.
The chappe is very detailed and overall is executed very well. The details are a little crisper on one side of the blade than the other and one side is slightly longer than the other.
The pommel is not quite as elegant as the original. The raised ridges of the original are simulated by incised lines which are sometimes a little uneven. The blade is attractively and evenly finished to Del Tin's standard grey finish.
In terms of handling, this sword won't appeal to everyone. As a thruster it is quite serviceable; the blade is quite stiff and the point is easy to control. However, its cutting ability is suspect. I see this partially as a by-product of its type. Type XV's are not designed to cut as well as some other types. It probably could possess slightly better cutting characteristics, though, as many reproductions of this type are better able to handle cutting against light targets.
I've always liked this sword. For its price point, it is well-executed overall. It could be more accurate and detailed aesthetically, but that would increase its cost. The details Del Tin Armi Antiche has chosen to include are done well, better, in fact, than most swords in this price range.
About the Author
Chad Arnow is a classical musician from the greater Cincinnati area and has had an interest in military history for many years. Though his collecting tends to focus on European weapons and armour of the High Middle Ages, he enjoys swords, knives and armour from many eras.
Sword in the Age of Chivalry, The, by R. Ewart Oakeshott
Records of the Medieval Sword, by R. Ewart Oakeshott
Photographer: Chad Arnow