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William Carew




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Feb, 2010 7:29 pm    Post subject: Wearing longswords in the 16th century         Reply with quote

Hi everyone

I know the topic of whether or not longswords were carried or worn during the 16th century, particularly without armour, has been raised before on threads such as this:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=15819

I thought I'd share some pictures of historical artwork, predominately from the 16th century, that I took in Vienna, Munich, Dresden and Berlin among other places.

It may not have been common, but longswords (and gross messers too) certainly were depicted 'at the hip' in the late 15th and first half of the 16th century. An interesting aspect is how narrow and delicate the belts and straps look compared to the often overly thick and over-engineered types some modern craftsman make.

Cheers

Bill



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Longsword, late 15th or early 16thC

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Longsword, 16thC

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Longsword, 16thC

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Longsword, 16thC

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Grosse messer, 16thC

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Gross messer and longsword, 16thC

Bill Carew
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Fri 19 Feb, 2010 7:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Bill,
Those are some great pics! Thanks for sharing!

I'm often puzzled at why people insist that the longsword was only used for sport by the 16th century, considering just how often you see it depicted in 16th century art, and given how many surviving examples of antiques there are from the 16th century.

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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Fri 19 Feb, 2010 10:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Now that last picture is intriguing! I wonder why would someone want to carry both longsword and gross messer at same time?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Feb, 2010 11:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Artis Aboltins wrote:
Now that last picture is intriguing! I wonder why would someone want to carry both longsword and gross messer at same time?


Maybe because the " someone " is " NOT " wearing both. Wink Looks to me like the messer is on a belt on a background figure and the longsword is on the foreground figure: It just looks confusing as at first glance I also initially interpreted the picture as one guy wearing both swords. Surprised Wink Cool

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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 3:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cool pictures. Does anyone have a picture of an antique longsword from 15th or 16th century as broad and with as spatulate tip like from the first picture? Without it being rehilted old XIIIa. This one looks like it has no fuller, maybe flattened diamond?
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 4:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One or two of the images does not show swords which IMHO looks like longswords. The image of the landsknecht in brown and yellow clothing shows a standard katzbalger of the longer type which frequently appears in the drawings of Paul Dolnstein for example. The image below that one is a bit odd as the blade is rather short but with a long grip.

I don't think there is any doubt that the longsword saw extensive use in the first 30 odd years of the 16th Century, Swiss troops are commonly shown wear longswords as sidearms and longswords appear in use by mounted troops as well. But sometime in the 1530's, perhaps early 1540's the use of the longsword in war seems to decline fairly rapidly judging by the sources.

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Greg Coffman




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 5:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill,
Those are great images. Where did you find them?

Greg Coffman

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
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Martin Fischer




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 6:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Artis Aboltins wrote:
Now that last picture is intriguing! I wonder why would someone want to carry both longsword and gross messer at same time?



... the person with the Messer is holding a "flagella", not a sword...

Regards

Martin
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 6:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Cool pictures. Does anyone have a picture of an antique longsword from 15th or 16th century as broad and with as spatulate tip like from the first picture? Without it being rehilted old XIIIa. This one looks like it has no fuller, maybe flattened diamond?


I suspect it may be an executioner's sword, such as this one:


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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Artis Aboltins wrote:
Now that last picture is intriguing! I wonder why would someone want to carry both longsword and gross messer at same time?


Maybe because the " someone " is " NOT " wearing both. Wink Looks to me like the messer is on a belt on a background figure and the longsword is on the foreground figure: It just looks confusing as at first glance I also initially interpreted the picture as one guy wearing both swords. Surprised Wink Cool


Guess that is what happens when you are not yet fully awake and see something like that Happy Need... more... cofee....
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 6:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Given the amount of room needed to use a longsword, I can't imagine them being very common infantry weapons; you'd be limited to attacks from above and thrusts, and there are bound to be cheaper weapons that do that.

M.

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Greg Coffman




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 8:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Given the amount of room needed to use a longsword, I can't imagine them being very common infantry weapons; you'd be limited to attacks from above and thrusts, and there are bound to be cheaper weapons that do that.

M.


You really don't need that much more room to use a longsword, and attacks from above make up quite a bit of the longsword teachings. Or at least, if attacks from above are all that you've got, that's quite enough. And they were indeed quite common, especially among the Swiss, as Daniel Staberg stated. They are shown worn and in use among the press of ranks of pikes and halberds in several battlefield depictions.



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For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
-Hebrews 4:12
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William Carew




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 9:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
One or two of the images does not show swords which IMHO looks like longswords. The image of the landsknecht in brown and yellow clothing shows a standard katzbalger of the longer type which frequently appears in the drawings of Paul Dolnstein for example.


Hi Daniel,

You could be right, although there were longswords with katzbalger style S-guard hilts and fairly short blades produced as well. The hilt appears a little too long for a one-handed katzbalger IMO.

Quote:
The image below that one is a bit odd as the blade is rather short but with a long grip.


It defintately looks like a longsword. A long hilt to blade ratio is not unusal in surviving longswords. Throughout Central Europe I saw quite a few longswords (some of which, unfortunately, I wasn't able to photograph due to museum restrictions on photography in places like Graz and Krakow) with very long hilts relative to the length of their blades. In the enclosed image below, you can see 6 such longswords with a long hilt to blade ratio.



Quote:
I don't think there is any doubt that the longsword saw extensive use in the first 30 odd years of the 16th Century, Swiss troops are commonly shown wear longswords as sidearms and longswords appear in use by mounted troops as well. But sometime in the 1530's, perhaps early 1540's the use of the longsword in war seems to decline fairly rapidly judging by the sources.


The interesting thing is the carriage of the longsword, at the hip, even by unarmoured people (i.e. in 'civvies'). Part of what prompted me to post these images is the assertion the longsword was not used at all in earnest in the 16th century, nor was it ever carried in civilian contexts. I think these images challenge those assertions.

Greg Coffman wrote:
Bill,
Those are great images. Where did you find them?


Hi Greg,

The artwork (and swords) are my own photographs from various kunsthistorisches (historical art) museums and armouries respectively. I'm still sorting out my photos, and when I finally do, I want to put up some albums of all the drool-worthy arms and armour I was lucky enough to see.

Cheers

Bill



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L-R: 1&2) Istanbul (Askeri Muzesi)
3) Vienna (Schatzkammer)
4) Munich (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum)
5&6) Dresden (Rüstkammer)
[ Download ]

Bill Carew
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2010 9:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Fischer wrote:
Artis Aboltins wrote:
Now that last picture is intriguing! I wonder why would someone want to carry both longsword and gross messer at same time?



... the person with the Messer is holding a "flagella", not a sword...

Regards

Martin


Yes, but it's not what they are holding it's the swords or messers belted at their waists, at least my comments are about the swords. Big Grin Cool

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Greg Coffman




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Feb, 2010 9:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I'm still sorting out my photos, and when I finally do, I want to put up some albums of all the drool-worthy arms and armour I was lucky enough to see.


Please do! Those are excellent photos of excellent paintings.

Greg C

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
-Hebrews 4:12
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Cornelis Tromp




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Feb, 2010 11:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Cool pictures. Does anyone have a picture of an antique longsword from 15th or 16th century as broad and with as spatulate tip like from the first picture? Without it being rehilted old XIIIa. This one looks like it has no fuller, maybe flattened diamond?


Hi,

herewith a 16thC 2 hander and 1 1/2 hander between 2 old XIIIa's Cool . the 2 hander is of a flat diamond shaped blade
and the 11/2H of lenticular shape.

regards



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Dan Rosen




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Feb, 2010 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Based on what evidence we have, I think everyone can agree that people did use longswords throughout the sixteenth century. In the thread you linked to, the issues raised there regarded time and place.

The artworks in this thread, as you noted, are from the early part of the sixteenth century and look to be predominantly German. Fashion and choices made vary per region, country, decade, etc., so we must not draw sweeping conclusions. The gentleman in the last thread indicated through his designs and desires that he was aiming for a late sixteenth century outfit, and the sort of images in this thread don't really apply.

Also consider the intent of the artworks you posted here. Are they depictions of real events? Or are they scenes from distant places or the Holy Land? Are they allegorical? Every little piece of any artwork is a construction; the artist makes visual choices that determine and/or influence what the viewer sees. In the case of many Medieval/Renaissance artworks (and well on into the 20th century), artists that had never left their homeland, let alone seen a foreign traveler, were on occasion tasked with depicting the exotic, and so many of these artworks are for a good part imagined or skewed. Cross-reference everything to create the clearest picture of the past.

I'm curious now as to the development of pike tactics. I'm familiar with those from the latter half of the sixteenth century on into the early seventeenth. We have many images of Swiss Reislaufer with longswords and pike, but as you get farther along, people start advocating the use of short swords or daggers in a pike formation. The Katzbalger might usually be rather short, and Sir John Smythe, in one of his books suggested daggers with small hilts for use in a pike block. In the seventeenth century, men might have short blades or hangers. I've read a few accounts about problems at musters where men have excessively long rapiers that just won't do. So what changed?

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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Feb, 2010 2:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cornelis Tromp wrote:
Luka Borscak wrote:
Cool pictures. Does anyone have a picture of an antique longsword from 15th or 16th century as broad and with as spatulate tip like from the first picture? Without it being rehilted old XIIIa. This one looks like it has no fuller, maybe flattened diamond?


Hi,

herewith a 16thC 2 hander and 1 1/2 hander between 2 old XIIIa's Cool . the 2 hander is of a flat diamond shaped blade
and the 11/2H of lenticular shape.

regards


Wow, impressive sword. The other one is nice too, reminds me of A&A Bohemian.
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Greg Coffman




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Feb, 2010 9:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Rosen wrote:
In the case of many Medieval/Renaissance artworks (and well on into the 20th century), artists that had never left their homeland, let alone seen a foreign traveler, were on occasion tasked with depicting the exotic, and so many of these artworks are for a good part imagined or skewed.


I think people were traveling a lot more at this time. And then we have plenty of soldier-artists who "saw the world" in the army and then drew what they saw. Albrecht Durer and Urs Graf fall into this category.

Quote:
I'm curious now as to the development of pike tactics...

That sounds like a topic for a whole other discussion!

Quote:
The artworks in this thread, as you noted, are from the early part of the sixteenth century and look to be predominantly German...The gentleman in the last thread indicated through his designs and desires that he was aiming for a late sixteenth century outfit, and the sort of images in this thread don't really apply.


Yes but these do!

Bad photo, but the longsword on the hip of the left-most figure is visible as are the longswords worn by the two armoured figures.


Another Longsword.


And two more longswords. Notice that the clothing matches pretty well what Meyer has depicted in 1570. So the weapons taught inside the fecht schules were carried outside the fecht schules.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
-Hebrews 4:12
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William Carew




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PostPosted: Thu 25 Feb, 2010 4:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Greg! Those are really interesting images. Where are these from (so I know where to go next time I'm in Europe!)?

Cheers

Bill

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