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Ruel A. Macaraeg





Joined: 25 Aug 2003

Posts: 306

PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 1:49 pm    Post subject: Visit to (and behind closed doors at ) the Higgins Armory         Reply with quote

Friends,
I was conferencing at Harvard over Memorial Day (USA) weekend and took the opportunity to visit Jeffrey Forgeng at the Higgins Armory Museum, about an hour by bus outside Boston. He and I were both speakers at a 2007 conference at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, yet it wasn't until now that I had the opportunity to take him up on his invitation to visit. During the earlier conference we found that we had some similar views regarding arms & armor research and martial arts that we wanted to pursue further.

My visit was extremely productive, and I managed to photograph the entire permanent collection, including the newly-opened "Scimitars to Samurai" and "Castle Quest" exhibits, together with their labels. (It will be many months before I get all the pictures sorted and uploaded, but if anyone has a particular research need for one, let me know and I'll do my best to help.)

I met Jeff in the afternoon and, before going out for drinks, he took me down to see the various pieces in storage and the restoration workshop. I must say, there's some fantastic stuff down there, of a range and diversity not readily apparent from the museum's emphasis on Medieval/Renaissance western Europe. A new permanent exhibit on swords was upcoming, and because the swords were already laid out in preparation for mounting I got to handle several fantastic items. Among them were a "Munich Town Guard" sword-rapier, a 12cBC Mycaenean sword, a 14thc épée de guerre (similar to the Black Prince's), and an early Italian spada di lato.

http://ForensicFashion.com/CostumeStudies.html
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Ruel A. Macaraeg





Joined: 25 Aug 2003

Posts: 306

PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Below are attached a few glimpses of other treasures beneath the Higgins.

I've also made the barest start at uploading some of the permanent collection, including two Thirty Years War cuirassier armors, a Montefortino helmet, and some Turkish yataghans.

http://www.forensicfashion.com/1635BavarianCavalryArmor.html
http://www.forensicfashion.com/BC225GallicMercenaryHelmet.html
http://www.forensicfashion.com/1739OttomanSoldierYataghan.html

All in all it was a very enjoyable and enlightening visit, and one I'd encourage any arms enthusiast to make. I'm especially pleased that the Higgins has a commitment to rigorous scholarship and critical thinking under Jeff's curatorship, something sorely lacking in all martial arts and military history communities. I make take him up on his invitation to participate in a WMA symposium in August; if I do, I hope to have more pictures to share with everyone, and that they help generate some earnest discussion about scholarly methods in this subject. Cool

http://ForensicFashion.com/CostumeStudies.html
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Sander Marechal




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 04 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 2:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Despite crude fittings, this spada di lato on the right has fantastic weight and balance


Forget the piece on the right. Tell me more about that saw-like monster on the left! Eek!

The Knights Hospitaller: http://www.hospitaalridders.nl
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Ruel A. Macaraeg





Joined: 25 Aug 2003

Posts: 306

PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 2:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Sander,

I had seen this sword in June 2009 at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where it was part of a special exhibit on Elizabethan weaponry. I wasn't able to photograph it then, so you can imagine I was very pleased to run into it here. If I remember the Folger description correctly, it is a 16thc Italian boarding sword; the saw may have been for cutting ship rigging. It had a good feel in the hand, though it's difficult for me to give a proper evaluation because there isn't a close basis for functional comparison. To my layman's eye, it looks most similar to the Italian falchion (coltelaggio, storta):
http://www.forensicfashion.com/1498FlorentineNobleFalchion.html

It certainly looks cool though! Wouldn't mind having an inexpensive replica if one of the production companies chose to make it. Blush

http://ForensicFashion.com/CostumeStudies.html
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Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
Joined: 15 Sep 2010
Likes: 4 pages

Posts: 249

PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 2:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sander Marechal wrote:
Quote:
Despite crude fittings, this spada di lato on the right has fantastic weight and balance


Forget the piece on the right. Tell me more about that saw-like monster on the left! Eek!


Seconded! That thing looks like something out of SoulCaliber. Eek!

"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
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Zach Luna




Location: Los Angeles
Joined: 04 Jul 2010
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Posts: 170

PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 5:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Holy cow, Ruel, this must have been an incredible experience! Thank you so much for sharing.

Anything more you can tell us about that slender pappenheimer or the épée de guerre in-hand? Beautiful stuff.
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Ruel A. Macaraeg





Joined: 25 Aug 2003

Posts: 306

PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 11:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Zach! Seems like your recent Paris/Cluny visit was quite the adventure too!

* The épée de guerre still felt like a serviceable weapon despite its obvious relic condition. I think Jeff said the museum was planning to commission a replica of it, as they were already doing for other of their medieval swords. (This link here shows one such replica on the same table -- an Oakeshott Type XIV -- and the sword it was based on in a museum vitrine: http://www.forensicfashion.com/1296PlantagenetKnightSword.html )

Something I hadn't thought much of before, but did once I held this sword, was the faceting of the cross-guard. You'll notice from the photo the bevel on it that runs across the quillons. For me, that beveling made my finger knuckles settle more comfortably on one side, and provided a good thumb-rest on the other.

* As you pointed out, the Pappenheimer had an exceptionally narrow blade compared to most others I've seen (including one held by the last Cuirassier armor in the link above: http://www.forensicfashion.com/1635BavarianCavalryArmor.html ). But I have seen such narrow rapier blades of German origin from that period elsewhere, including ones on Spanish cup-hilts from the Museo Naval and the Royal Ontario Museum.

http://www.forensicfashion.com/files/1621Span...rROM01.JPG
http://www.forensicfashion.com/files/1621Span...aval01.JPG
(See here for their labels: http://www.forensicfashion.com/1621SpanishNobleRapier.html )

I noticed that this Pappenheimer's narrowness was compensated for by a thick cross-section, especially at the ricasso (this was even more true for the Munich sword). In handling, the blade seemed stiff and light -- not whippy like a sport fencing blade, although their dynamic balances felt comparable.

Naturally, being in those small and crowded rooms, I didn't put the swords through any vigorous movements, and probably wouldn't have anyway since I don't trust myself with old and valuable things. But apparently the Higgins' swordsmanship research group does, and there's some satisfaction in known that these weapons are still getting physical exercise. Cool

http://ForensicFashion.com/CostumeStudies.html
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