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Genuine or not?
genuine
35%
 35%  [ 7 ]
not genuine
40%
 40%  [ 8 ]
unsure
25%
 25%  [ 5 ]
Total Votes : 20

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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2018 11:49 am    Post subject: Museum fake...?         Reply with quote

I recently went to the redone arms&armor exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Their collection has been stored for a few years while they built a new room and created a new installation for the pieces. They also acquired some new pieces which I was very excited to see as they were viking era stuff which I have a soft spot for. Honestly, I thought there were some pieces that seemed to have questionable authenticity. Maybe I'm being a huge arrogant jerk for thinking I might know better than the curators of a major museum. I am posting the piece which struck me most as phony. I can't say I've ever seen an Ulberht inlay on a single edge sword, nor have I seen a single edged viking sword with this shape before. It seems more like a messer blade to me with the small fuller termination and false edge. The pommel and inlay look off too. I know it's not possible to be certain, but this one just doesn't look right to me. I'm posting pics and a poll so I can see what others think....


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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2018 12:05 pm    Post subject: Its good.         Reply with quote

Hi Tim

I recently visited the exhibit and went through the early stuff pretty thoroughly. The sword is pretty good. It has several elements that I doubt someone trying to make a sellable "fake" would have done. It is a rare form for being an Ulfie, but I think its good.

Craig
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2018 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I trust your opinion Craig! It sure did look off... Thanks for the reply!
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2018 1:10 pm    Post subject: Happy to Help         Reply with quote

Hi Tim
Happy to Help, one of the things with nordic sword hilts is today we get about 3 varieties that are focused on with some outliers, where if you dig a bit deeper you find a pretty wide variety out there. It can be small sheet metal components that where probably filled with pitch to solid blocks similar to the one pictured in your post in a wide variety of shapes to thin fins of a pommel. There are even some eastern pommels that are literally carved to look like the head and shoulders of a warrior. Lots of cool stuff :-)

Craig
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Jun, 2020 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm, some things do seem off...

First of all, the grip looks really long! Maybe it's also a matter of perspective in the picture but as it is, it looks way too long.
If we assume the hilt as a whole as the basic circle, the blade (as per photo) is 3,5 times the basic circle. Most early-high medieval swords in the Catalogue of "The Sword - Form and Thought" which follow the pattern of "basic circle behind the hilt", the proportion blade : hilt is mostly 5,5. In Viking swords, the hilt is generally even shorter than on those early-high medieval swords. Even if the perspective of the photo skews things a bit, I can't really make sense of that, unless it is a really short blade (<60cm) but that seems unlikely as well when one looks at the general proportions.

The Ulfberht inlay is also strange. The theory is that Ulfberht blades originated in the Frankish Rhineland. The other theory is that the single edged Viking sword is more or less typical for Norway and therefore (?) a local Norwegian production. Although both are "just theories" that doesn't add up. On the other hand, this particular inlay reads +VLFBERHT, and not +VLFBERH+T as on the more common / "genuine" (?) Ulfberhts, so this might be a (Norwegian?) copycat. Also the latter part of the inscription (HT) seems very close to the edge, seems unpractical...

Geibig dates Ulfberht incriptions to 750-950. A copycat would, I assume, likely be in the latter part of this spectrum. But the hilt, which in my opinion does not fit neatly into any Type as defined by Petersen or Geibig, seems to predate the Viking age period, especially the pommel cap, which seems to mimic Migration age / Vendel inlayed shapes. This chronological gap is difficult to explain, unless it is an (old?) hybrid.

In such outlying cases which don't fit neatly in a type, provenance is everything. I would assume that a reputable museum would display objects with good and traceable provenance, e.g. found in archeological dig site, and document it as such. I also know it's not a perfect world however... But bottom line, if this sword would come up at an auction, I would not bid on it, unless, maybe, if the price would be really low.
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Tyler C.




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jun, 2020 8:53 am    Post subject: Re: Happy to Help         Reply with quote

Tim,

Thanks for posting this. Very interesting to read the thoughts so far. Like you, I would be skeptical based on the uncharacteristic features of this blade. That being said, the fact that it is uncharacteristic is something that could point to it being authentic since fakers typically pick very recognizable forms to fake. I'm interested to see what others think of this blade. Does anyone know if it has any provenance?

Craig Johnson wrote:
Hi Tim
Happy to Help, one of the things with nordic sword hilts is today we get about 3 varieties that are focused on with some outliers, where if you dig a bit deeper you find a pretty wide variety out there. It can be small sheet metal components that where probably filled with pitch to solid blocks similar to the one pictured in your post in a wide variety of shapes to thin fins of a pommel. There are even some eastern pommels that are literally carved to look like the head and shoulders of a warrior. Lots of cool stuff :-)

Craig


Craig,

I feel like a thread on outlier swords would be really interesting and fun. It would be great to see some more of these oddball designs from the period. With everyone pitching in I imagine we could collect quite a good list of misfits.

Also, I'd be interested to hear what the elements of this sword were that you felt were unlikely to be faked. What elements are you referring to?
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jun, 2020 2:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Even with Craig saying he thinks its genuine, I really struggle to believe that it is. The style of inlay (in particular the triangles, which are not seen on many examples) and the pommel bear too close a resemblance to some notable fakes that came from a certain auction house. This one is just too close in style to those swords for me to believe it. They almost look like they came from the same workshop....or even the same hand. I've posted the swords that I think it resembles (thanks myArmoury FB page for the good photos). Note the spiral inlay, the triangle inlay, and the odd "kinda viking" pommel on this one that is so similar to the sword in question. It just smells fishy to me.


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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jun, 2020 5:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Lison wrote:
The style of inlay (in particular the triangles, which are not seen on many examples) and the pommel bear too close a resemblance to some notable fakes that came from a certain auction house.


Those two swords are not from an auction house. They are from Peter Finer, an antique arms and armour dealer in London.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jun, 2020 4:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It looks like a genuine medieval sword but it may not be a genuine Ulfberht
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jun, 2020 10:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Lison wrote:
They almost look like they came from the same workshop....


Those two swords got at least the proportions "right" (with "right" I mean that it conforms to known originals.). What sets me off on those is mostly the inlays on the blades and the hilts.

But I suppose they could be genuine medieval swords that got "upgraded" by a previous owner, or maliciously to increase the value.

The sword in the OP is in a major museum that should know it's stuff. It could be a modern composed hybrid, putting together an original blade with an original hilt from a different place and time.

Or, the sword could be a really early single edged Viking sword (e.g. early 7th C?) and the Ulfberht was added later, maybe even in the 9th-10th C. as a kind of "upgrade"? It still doesn't explain the weirdly long grip although it could a remnant of sax proportions, making this sword a transitional piece between saxes and single edged Viking swords? Still pretty far-fetched in my opinion but who knows...

Dan Howard wrote:
It looks like a genuine medieval sword but it may not be a genuine Ulfberht


But then, how would you explain the discrepancies, as in my previous post?
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Tyler C.




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jun, 2020 12:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:

Those two swords are not from an auction house. They are from Peter Finer, an antique arms and armour dealer in London.


I'm not sure what this implies. Can you clarify? Are you saying that they are likely authentic because of this?
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Tyler C.




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jun, 2020 12:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I hope this thread doesn't get forgotten just yet. I'm still interested to hear some more thoughts and info on this sword.

I had a look at the AIC website and noticed that they referred to it as a "counterfeit from the Viking era". Otherwise I couldn't find any information on it.

As a side note, does anyone know who the craftsperson is who did the videos for the AIC?
See here: https://www.artic.edu/interactive-features/the-art-of-the-viking-sword
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jun, 2020 1:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler C. wrote:
Nathan Robinson wrote:

Those two swords are not from an auction house. They are from Peter Finer, an antique arms and armour dealer in London.


I'm not sure what this implies. Can you clarify? Are you saying that they are likely authentic because of this?


I'm not implying anything. I'm merely correcting the comment that stated that they were from an auction house.

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Tyler C.




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PostPosted: Wed 17 Jun, 2020 1:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Check this out. This is a blade from the University Museum of Bergen in Norway. This is from a Viking period grave and was accompanied by other viking grave goods. The narrow fuller is very similar to the blade in question ending before the tip where there appears to be a false edge.

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Mark Lewis





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PostPosted: Thu 18 Jun, 2020 3:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the link to the Chicago exhibit. While searching for more photos I found that this sword was previously discussed in another forum. Peter Johnsson addresses its many suspicious and peculiar features in some detail.

https://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?/topic/32690-single-edge-ulfberht/
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Jun, 2020 11:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting take on this sword from Peter...and some other notable sword personalities. I'm more certain than ever that this is a complete fake, and I question some of the other pieces there too....
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Mark Lewis





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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jun, 2020 4:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Lison wrote:
I'm more certain than ever that this is a complete fake, and I question some of the other pieces there too....

I agree 100%... what else is there that seems iffy? The type S "real Ulfberht" on display was among those tested by Alan Williams and found to be of high-carbon "crucible steel", so that one at least seems reliably genuine. I can nitpick a few details about the Ingelrii sword, but it is not nearly as suspicious as the single-edged Ulfberht.
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