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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Dec, 2007 3:37 pm    Post subject: Is this a curved Type XIV?         Reply with quote

I stumbled across this interesting image, in which Alexander defeats King Porus. From what I gather this was painted in Flanders circa 1325-1335. King Porus's sword looks distictly like a type XIV to me, but is curved toward the end of the blade. From what I gather this was painted in Flanders.

King Porus is made to look almost bestial, but otherwise is armored precisely like his counterpart. I wonder if the artist hadn't heard that curved swords were used in the east, but having no further detail simply modified what he knew. If that is not the case, I'd love to see a curved Type XIV.



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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Mon 31 Dec, 2007 3:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know the context of the painting, but I wonder if perhaps the sword is supposed to be bent. It kind of looks that way to me. In fact, I don't believe Alexander killed Porus, historically. In fact, I think after Alexander defeated him, Porus later became an ally, so I'm curious what the story is behind this particular image. Interesting.

Quote:
I wonder if the artist hadn't heard that curved swords were used in the east, but having no further detail simply modified what he knew.


That's a plausible theory, but during the 14th century, I don't believe curved swords were any more common in the east than they were in the west. So I doubt that's the reason.

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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Dec, 2007 4:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
during the 14th century, I don't believe curved swords were any more common in the east than they were in the west.


That's a good point. I wish I knew more about the context of the image, but that's the downside to history via web; contect is often lacking.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Dec, 2007 5:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Could be a curved blade like a sabre or a strait blade flexing sideways in the drawing to suggest some speed of motion or bending of the sword after being parried ?

Some sort of non-literal explanation would be something similar to what is done in traditional cartoon animation where distortions of shape are used to show brutal motion transitions or impact: Think road runner/coyote, Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck.

A curved drawing of a sword isn't always because the actual sword was curved. Wink Laughing Out Loud

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 31 Dec, 2007 6:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I imagine it would be an illustrative way of demonstrating movement or flex during movement.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 31 Dec, 2007 8:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have to go with Bill's theory on this one. I've seen nothing in medieval artwork that suggests that the artists were significantly concerned with realism to the point of illustrating movement or flex with movement in this manner. Besides, a bent sword from a hard-contested fight is something that seems consistent with chivalric literature.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Dec, 2007 9:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
I have to go with Bill's theory on this one. I've seen nothing in medieval artwork that suggests that the artists were significantly concerned with realism to the point of illustrating movement or flex with movement in this manner. Besides, a bent sword from a hard-contested fight is something that seems consistent with chivalric literature.


The reason for the bent sword is not a question of realism in my previous post: It's just the way an artist might want to suggest movement or power or defeated power i.e the loser's sword bending away from impending defeat.

It's story telling, allegory or poetry ( Artistic licence ) , at least that's my theory and it is a theory/hypothesis: Alternate interpretations also being worth looking at.

Since my background is in graphics and fine arts I tend to look at period drawings in terms of what style tricks or shortcuts I might use to communicate an idea or a feeling if I had the limited knowledge of perspective before the Renaissance: In some ways this resembles how children draw.

Anyway, just a longwinded way to say that when looking at iconography one has to assume some degree of generalization and simplification as well as period specific drawing conventions.

In comparison: if one looks at a Durer drawing one can assume a very high degree of realism about arms and armour.

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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Dec, 2007 11:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a hard time with the bent sword / flexing sword theories only because I've never seen either of these represented in medieval art. edit: of course that's not saying much Big Grin

Come to think of it, are there other examples of bent/broken weapons in 14th century art? Certainly we see copious amounts of broken armor (Maciejewski springs to mind), and plenty of discarded or dropped weapons, but broken or bent weapons? Does anyone have a good example?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Jan, 2008 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
I have a hard time with the bent sword / flexing sword theories only because I've never seen either of these represented in medieval art. edit: of course that's not saying much Big Grin

Come to think of it, are there other examples of bent/broken weapons in 14th century art? Certainly we see copious amounts of broken armor (Maciejewski springs to mind), and plenty of discarded or dropped weapons, but broken or bent weapons? Does anyone have a good example?


Maybe the artist did mean it to be a curved blade ? As far as the blade being curved or bent it's hard to tell as the drawing could be interpreted both ways: Visual cues that would confirm one or the other are missing or at the least ambigious.

So how do we explain the curve in the blade ?

1) Curved ?
2) Bent/damaged ?
3) My theory about motion/speed/artistic license ?
4) Something else we haven't thought of yet ?

Gavin your initial post theory:
Quote:
I wonder if the artist hadn't heard that curved swords were used in the east, but having no further detail simply modified what he knew. If that is not the case, I'd love to see a curved Type XIV.


At least as good as any of the other possibilities. Wink Laughing Out Loud

When we can't have an answer with certainty at least we can try to imagine all likely possibilities ?

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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Jan, 2008 9:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The artist would no doubt be befuddled that 550 years later people would be puzzing over his illustration.
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Jan, 2008 1:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
The artist would no doubt be befuddled that 550 years later people would be puzzing over his illustration.

...and more than a bit flattered, at that. I know I would be. Big Grin

Assuming it's an artistic cue for dynamic motion, it looks oddly isolated to me: there are no other such shorthands used anywhere else in the illustration, or in any other piece of period artwork that I know of. (Which is even more suspicious because other types of artistic shorthand are prominent, like the ways maille or facial features and expressions are rendered.)

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Jan, 2008 10:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:
Gavin Kisebach wrote:
The artist would no doubt be befuddled that 550 years later people would be puzzing over his illustration.

...and more than a bit flattered, at that. I know I would be. Big Grin

Assuming it's an artistic cue for dynamic motion, it looks oddly isolated to me: there are no other such shorthands used anywhere else in the illustration, or in any other piece of period artwork that I know of. (Which is even more suspicious because other types of artistic shorthand are prominent, like the ways maille or facial features and expressions are rendered.)


Very good point and this is the way we can sort out the possibilities in order of " probability ": The Occam's razor principle that the simplest answer that explains something is " usually " the right answer.

Finding other pieces of period artwork showing curved type XIV " looking " swords in contexts that give more clues to the artist's intent would be useful.

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David Martin




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Jan, 2008 7:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A Freudian would likely say that the sword is bent to reflect the decreased potency of the victim. Razz
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Stirling Matheson





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PostPosted: Wed 02 Jan, 2008 9:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the artist probably just didn't like the line that a straight sword would have made, and having perhaps heard of a curved sword, made a line that flowed more smoothly into the sword on the far right
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Jan, 2008 10:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I have seen of art from this period, weapons are depicted in a very static, uniform nature with very little devation from convention. I suppose this is because the weapons are, with few exceptions, not the focus of the illustration, but rather set pieces around the characters depicted.

The artists don't seem to be trying to present a photograph of the event with a high level of realism; at least not in the way that we would having grown up in a graphic heavy era. In some paintings it seems that the illustrator might as well have used a stamp, because all of the swords/axes/spears look the same. In others there is much variety, but only to imply a throng while only actually sketching out a few foreground figures.
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Thu 03 Jan, 2008 12:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the answer is simple, the painter was an european with a small, fourth hand knowledge of how a middle eatern/african would be looking or what he could be handling as a weapon.

As in many other cases, e.g. teh case of medieval Bestiaria often when depicting imaginary or real beasts that were said to be existing in african/asian contexts, the european painter would have to resort to unreliable tales, where reality would mix with wild fantasies.

So probably the king is depicted according to the idea an european could have made himself of people living in the other part of the world, in the same imprecise way as it was made for african and asian animals.

This would explain the strong facial features of the King, who was likely intended by the painter as an african, as well as the curved shape of the blade, meant to be a scimitar: this latter surely echoes the tales of saracens, who were probably described as having curved blades.

Having never seen a real one the painter simply designed as curved an european blade.
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Jan, 2008 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bruno Giordan wrote:
I think the answer is simple, the painter was an european with a small, fourth hand knowledge of how a middle eatern/african would be looking or what he could be handling as a weapon.

As in many other cases, e.g. teh case of medieval Bestiaria often when depicting imaginary or real beasts that were said to be existing in african/asian contexts, the european painter would have to resort to unreliable tales, where reality would mix with wild fantasies.

So probably the king is depicted according to the idea an european could have made himself of people living in the other part of the world, in the same imprecise way as it was made for african and asian animals.

This would explain the strong facial features of the King, who was likely intended by the painter as an african, as well as the curved shape of the blade, meant to be a scimitar: this latter surely echoes the tales of saracens, who were probably described as having curved blades.

Having never seen a real one the painter simply designed as curved an european blade.

I suppose it's possible, but as pointed out above, the Muslims of the time actually didn't use curved swords to any remarkable degree, certainly no more than Europeans did. And Porus's men (well, man) are armed with straight swords (well... sword), too - the king's sword is the only curved one in the picture. IMO, a more likely explanation than a rare shorthand for Muslims in general, might be if King Porus in specific was said to have personally carried a curved sword.

It's actually quite interesting. You see this exact same thing, a single sword blade bent or curved for no apparent reason, in a lot of period artwork. Sometimes it seems to be simply to avoid the lines crossing the borders of the picture, but other times, like here, even that isn't an issue. Sometimes it's also possible the artist was trying to conform to some preset composition scheme and bending the lines to that end, but even that isn't always plausible...

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Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Thu 03 Jan, 2008 9:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:
Bruno Giordan wrote:
I think the answer is simple, the painter was an european with a small, fourth hand knowledge of how a middle eatern/african would be looking or what he could be handling as a weapon.

As in many other cases, e.g. teh case of medieval Bestiaria often when depicting imaginary or real beasts that were said to be existing in african/asian contexts, the european painter would have to resort to unreliable tales, where reality would mix with wild fantasies.

So probably the king is depicted according to the idea an european could have made himself of people living in the other part of the world, in the same imprecise way as it was made for african and asian animals.

This would explain the strong facial features of the King, who was likely intended by the painter as an african, as well as the curved shape of the blade, meant to be a scimitar: this latter surely echoes the tales of saracens, who were probably described as having curved blades.

Having never seen a real one the painter simply designed as curved an european blade.

I suppose it's possible, but as pointed out above, the Muslims of the time actually didn't use curved swords to any remarkable degree, certainly no more than Europeans did. And Porus's men (well, man) are armed with straight swords (well... sword), too - the king's sword is the only curved one in the picture. IMO, a more likely explanation than a rare shorthand for Muslims in general, might be if King Porus in specific was said to have personally carried a curved sword.

It's actually quite interesting. You see this exact same thing, a single sword blade bent or curved for no apparent reason, in a lot of period artwork. Sometimes it seems to be simply to avoid the lines crossing the borders of the picture, but other times, like here, even that isn't an issue. Sometimes it's also possible the artist was trying to conform to some preset composition scheme and bending the lines to that end, but even that isn't always plausible...


There was a big confusion about foreign, exotic countries in popular literature then.

A curved blade might have been reported from other parts of the world, for example Asia, but a middle age man could easily confuse an asian with an african or northern african moslem, as well s confuse lions with elephants, elephants with rhinos and even often fuse them into imaginary beasts conjugating fragments of different vague merchant tales in new fantastic beasts.

I mean, the notion of a curved blade might have come from everywhere, even India through a long chain of tales.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Jan, 2008 10:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bruno Giordan wrote:
This would explain the strong facial features of the King, who was likely intended by the painter as an african, as well as the curved shape of the blade, meant to be a scimitar: this latter surely echoes the tales of saracens, who were probably described as having curved blades.


I don't believe the Saracens used curved blades, did they? I thought that was pure Hollywood. My understanding is that curved blades in the middle east didn't become common for another couple hundred years. Furthermore, I would suspect that the artist, if trying to draw a curved sword, would have drawn a more typical European curved sword (such as a falchion). As I mentioned earlier, I don't think your theory (which coincides with Gavin's original theory) is out of the question, but it's not something I'm prepared to accept without more knowledge of how Middle Eastern weaponry at the time would have been portrayed to typical Europeans.

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Victor Lavenstein




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Jan, 2008 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greetings All. My first post here after much lurking.
Just thought I'd add this image of Saracens attacking with curved swords to the discussion. Perhaps this was a European artistic convention of the time, even though straight swords were the norm in the Middle East?

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