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Martin Kallander




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jul, 2022 3:03 am    Post subject: What is the purpose of this sword         Reply with quote

It looks really short and seems like it either has two fullers that join at the top, or some raised ridge along the blade's middle. Stranger still, it lacks a pommel. I know a lot of you prefer to say oddities in byzantine art are nothing more than whims of the artists that don't represent anything real, but assuming a sword like this did exist, what do you think the point of it would be?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jul, 2022 5:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Before speculating on the point of it, one must demonstrate that it actually existed.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jul, 2022 5:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, most swords are made for *fighting*, eh? Wink But yeah, it's probably a bit stylized.

In this case, it presumably helps identify this warrior saint?

Matthew
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jul, 2022 6:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:


In this case, it presumably helps identify this warrior saint?

Matthew


This is the Archangel Michael, who is often shown with a sword. This pose seems a fairly stock one.

Whether there is any reality in the sword may depend on the dating. I don't know much about these but I know the same style has been used for hundreds of years.

Anthony Clipsom
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Victor R.




Location: Klein, Texas
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jul, 2022 8:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The blade size and style put me in mind of a late Roman or early Byzantine spatha. As for "no pommel", that isn't necessarily true.

Follow this link for an example of an extant Byzantine spatha with a grip style that would have presented very much like that in the illustration. One of the pics from the site is included below.

https://sword-site.com/thread/1469/holyland-byzantine-bronze-spatha-sword



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Martin Kallander




Location: Sweden
Joined: 25 Sep 2018

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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jul, 2022 12:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Victor R. wrote:
The blade size and style put me in mind of a late Roman or early Byzantine spatha. As for "no pommel", that isn't necessarily true.

Follow this link for an example of an extant Byzantine spatha with a grip style that would have presented very much like that in the illustration. One of the pics from the site is included below.

https://sword-site.com/thread/1469/holyland-byzantine-bronze-spatha-sword


The reason I don't think it's a pommel is because of those lines on it that appear on the upper handle. Surely there would be lines on the crossguard as well if lines did not mean handle
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2022 3:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Kallander wrote:
Victor R. wrote:
The blade size and style put me in mind of a late Roman or early Byzantine spatha. As for "no pommel", that isn't necessarily true.

Follow this link for an example of an extant Byzantine spatha with a grip style that would have presented very much like that in the illustration. One of the pics from the site is included below.

https://sword-site.com/thread/1469/holyland-byzantine-bronze-spatha-sword


The reason I don't think it's a pommel is because of those lines on it that appear on the upper handle. Surely there would be lines on the crossguard as well if lines did not mean handle


Looks like a pommel to me! Sure, it's not big, but looking at the size of his hand, and the overall smallness of the rest of the sword, it doesn't look like just the end of the grip. Plus, sword grips aren't that long, they are made to fit the hand pretty closely. (Until you get into later hand-and-a-half styles, etc.)

Matthew
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Martin Kallander




Location: Sweden
Joined: 25 Sep 2018

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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2022 6:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Martin Kallander wrote:
Victor R. wrote:
The blade size and style put me in mind of a late Roman or early Byzantine spatha. As for "no pommel", that isn't necessarily true.

Follow this link for an example of an extant Byzantine spatha with a grip style that would have presented very much like that in the illustration. One of the pics from the site is included below.

https://sword-site.com/thread/1469/holyland-byzantine-bronze-spatha-sword


The reason I don't think it's a pommel is because of those lines on it that appear on the upper handle. Surely there would be lines on the crossguard as well if lines did not mean handle


Looks like a pommel to me! Sure, it's not big, but looking at the size of his hand, and the overall smallness of the rest of the sword, it doesn't look like just the end of the grip. Plus, sword grips aren't that long, they are made to fit the hand pretty closely. (Until you get into later hand-and-a-half styles, etc.)

Matthew


This saint is from the later Byzantine period when longer hilts were a thing. If it is a pommel then the handle still looks at least 10 cm or longer since you can see it and the thumb above the palm. Pommel or not, I do not think it is a closely fitting handle like earlier swords with hilts always around 8-9 cm.
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Victor R.




Location: Klein, Texas
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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2022 11:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Kallander wrote:
Matthew Amt wrote:
Martin Kallander wrote:
Victor R. wrote:
The blade size and style put me in mind of a late Roman or early Byzantine spatha. As for "no pommel", that isn't necessarily true.

Follow this link for an example of an extant Byzantine spatha with a grip style that would have presented very much like that in the illustration. One of the pics from the site is included below.

https://sword-site.com/thread/1469/holyland-byzantine-bronze-spatha-sword


The reason I don't think it's a pommel is because of those lines on it that appear on the upper handle. Surely there would be lines on the crossguard as well if lines did not mean handle


Looks like a pommel to me! Sure, it's not big, but looking at the size of his hand, and the overall smallness of the rest of the sword, it doesn't look like just the end of the grip. Plus, sword grips aren't that long, they are made to fit the hand pretty closely. (Until you get into later hand-and-a-half styles, etc.)

Matthew


This saint is from the later Byzantine period when longer hilts were a thing. If it is a pommel then the handle still looks at least 10 cm or longer since you can see it and the thumb above the palm. Pommel or not, I do not think it is a closely fitting handle like earlier swords with hilts always around 8-9 cm.


Did you even look at the picture or follow the link? The style of pommel presented, other than being silver instead of gilded, is spot on. The type of cross presented, with a collar on the grip side, is very similar in style. You can't see the grip because it is obscured by the hand. This is a Byzantine painting and the sword in the link is an extant Byzantine sword that covers the time frame of the painting. I'm pretty sure the painted image and the extant sword reflect the same aesthetic and design technique - they are both from the same era and region. You asked "what is this sword" and I believe that link tells you precisely what it is based upon.
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Martin Kallander




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2022 1:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Victor R. wrote:
Did you even look at the picture or follow the link? The style of pommel presented, other than being silver instead of gilded, is spot on. The type of cross presented, with a collar on the grip side, is very similar in style. You can't see the grip because it is obscured by the hand. This is a Byzantine painting and the sword in the link is an extant Byzantine sword that covers the time frame of the painting. I'm pretty sure the painted image and the extant sword reflect the same aesthetic and design technique - they are both from the same era and region. You asked "what is this sword" and I believe that link tells you precisely what it is based upon.


I did follow your link, I have seen that sword a many times before. My profile should make it clear what my interests are. As for time frame, that painting is several centuries removed from that sword. The painting is at its earliest still post 4th crusade while the sword at its latest would have been carried by one Basil The Purple's men.
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Victor R.




Location: Klein, Texas
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2022 8:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Kallander wrote:
Victor R. wrote:
Did you even look at the picture or follow the link? The style of pommel presented, other than being silver instead of gilded, is spot on. The type of cross presented, with a collar on the grip side, is very similar in style. You can't see the grip because it is obscured by the hand. This is a Byzantine painting and the sword in the link is an extant Byzantine sword that covers the time frame of the painting. I'm pretty sure the painted image and the extant sword reflect the same aesthetic and design technique - they are both from the same era and region. You asked "what is this sword" and I believe that link tells you precisely what it is based upon.


I did follow your link, I have seen that sword a many times before. My profile should make it clear what my interests are. As for time frame, that painting is several centuries removed from that sword. The painting is at its earliest still post 4th crusade while the sword at its latest would have been carried by one Basil The Purple's men.


Simplified: you're being obtuse.
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2022 9:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I can't comment on Byzantine art in general, but Latin art gives saints' attributes (St. Catherine's wheel, St. George's dragon) whatever size will fit and keep the emphasis on the saint not the attribute. And many traditions of art don't insist on realistic proportions anyways.

So I would not place much emphasis on the proportions in any one image. If this sword blade were any longer, the artist would not have room for the sacred letters in the upper left corner.

It would be good to know where this icon comes from, when it dates to, and whether it is a copy of an earlier icon which might have simplified some details.

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Martin Kallander




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2022 10:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
I can't comment on Byzantine art in general, but Latin art gives saints' attributes (St. Catherine's wheel, St. George's dragon) whatever size will fit and keep the emphasis on the saint not the attribute. And many traditions of art don't insist on realistic proportions anyways.

So I would not place much emphasis on the proportions in any one image. If this sword blade were any longer, the artist would not have room for the sacred letters in the upper left corner.

It would be good to know where this icon comes from, when it dates to, and whether it is a copy of an earlier icon which might have simplified some details.

Yes that does make sense to me. French cuirassiers carried swords like this one but theirs were much longer and in that context a double fuller makes more sense. Double fullers come with a lot of downsides so I find it odd such a short sword would have it. Dan is right in that speculating on these things without surviving items is more or less useless and it's even more true in this particular case because this is the only icon with such a sword. The sword could well be downsized to fit the icon but it could just as likely not be.

I sadly do not have specific info about this icon's origin or exact date and reverse image searching hasn't yielded anything so far.

Victor R. wrote:
Simplified: you're being obtuse.

I am sorry if I have offended you somehow.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2022 12:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I’d like to remind everyone to be civil. Disagree if you must, but don’t make it personal.
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2022 1:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Mr. Kallander,

On Monday 4 July 2022, you wrote:
Surely there would be lines on the crossguard as well if lines did not mean handle.
I don't see any particular reason to assume that. For examples of spirally-molded motifs on grip ferrules and pommels that do not appear on either the grips themselves or on the guards, see eighteenth-century smallswords with gadrooned decoration. In any case, it is a dangerous argument to dismiss artistic convention in one instance while invoking it in another instance.

On Tuesday 5 July 2022, you wrote:
This saint is from the later Byzantine period . . .
And on Wednesday 6 July 2022, you also wrote:
I sadly do not have specific info about this icon's origin or exact date and reverse image searching hasn't yielded anything so far.
This is a problem. Can you say definitely that this is a Byzantine icon rather than, say, a Russian one painted after the Napoleonic Wars? This is a relevant question because you go on to say:
Quote:
French cuirassiers carried swords like this one but theirs were much longer and in that context a double fuller makes more sense.
If this were a post-Napoleonic Russian icon, the double fullers might be inspired by the artist's personal experience of French cuirassier swords rather than having anything to do with Byzantine blade styles. It seems equally plausible that the blade's appearance reflects the artist's attempt to portray a hollow-ground blade. The genre's extreme stylization makes it difficult to rely on the image to accurately depict fine details of the sword's design.

On Wednesday 6 July 2022, you wrote:
. . . The sword could well be downsized to fit the icon but it could just as likely not be.
It seems very unlikely that the sword's size has not been manipulated by the artist to fit the image's needs. Do please note that the saint's hand fits the grip in what appears to be a comfortable manner for a sword with a grip of moderate length. Note also that the forearms are grossly out of proportion to the upper arms, head, and body, and in different ratios for each part; the hands are also out of proportion compared to the forearms. Because of these varying proportions it is impossible to assign a scale to the sword relative to the figure. At best, the elements of the sword may be depicted in proportion with one another, but it's not really possible to rely on that either. Any arguments about the sword's length in relation to its function are simply not possible, because we cannot know how long it's supposed to be.

Earlier on 6 July, you also wrote:
My profile should make it clear what my interests are.
I'm afraid it doesn't--myArmoury's member profiles don't record or display interests. The closest approach would be if you'd created a reading list. Could you be confusing your profile on this forum with that on another forum?

Finally, I think that there's been some frustration among respondents to your questions because the way you've argued in this thread may have led some people to think that you've come to the discussion with a hypothesis already in mind and are trying to fit the evidence to the hypothesis rather than the reverse. As I'm sure I don't need to remind you, such an approach typically leads the person who holds the pre-formed hypothesis to feel that it's been confirmed when all available evidence may, to an unbiased observer, point in another direction.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2022 11:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Can you say definitely that this is a Byzantine icon rather than, say, a Russian one painted after the Napoleonic Wars?


Well, the angel's name is given in Greek (top right). I'd expect on a 19th century Russian icon it would be in Russian. As to the date, I remain at a loss.

Anthony Clipsom
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Martin Kallander




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2022 12:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark,

Quote:
it is a dangerous argument to dismiss artistic convention in one instance while invoking it in another instance.

To assume something depicted represents something real in order to speculate about it is not dismissing artistic convetions, it is the premise of the discussion. Entertaining an idea is not accepting it. Artistic conventions should be used as arguments within the confines of the discussion.

To clarify (and I realize I worded it terribly in the original post) - It is not impossible that the sword has a pommel, it just does not appear so to me. It would be a break from artistic convetions of the icon's period to depict the pommel and handle the same way without also depicting the guard so.
Quote:
Can you say definitely that this is a Byzantine icon rather than, say, a Russian one painted after the Napoleonic Wars?

In regards to the time period, yes, although it could maybe not impossibly but very unlikely be Russian and not Balkan or Anatolian.
Quote:
If this were a post-Napoleonic Russian icon

It is not.

I did not express myself very well on this either. French cuirassier swords' similarities with Michael's begin and end with double fullers. They do not literally carry swords like that, they look completely different. I mention them because they are the only instance of double fullered blades I know of, but the reason they have them do not make sense to me at least on a short sword. Again, the sword may not actually be the depicted length.
Quote:
The genre's extreme stylization makes it difficult to rely on the image to accurately depict fine details of the sword's design.

This is not very relevant to the discussion at hand but I think the genre only becomes so in later times when both romans and russians start imitating old icons instead of depicting existing material culture. Right up until the Byzantine fall the arms and armours the icons are evolving alongside contemporary equipment. It is only after the fall you start seeing truly absurd equipment, before that even the extraordinary things are all still at least theoretically plausible as functioning items that could serve an intended purpose.
Quote:
I'm afraid it doesn't--myArmoury's member profiles don't record or display interests. The closest approach would be if you'd created a reading list. Could you be confusing your profile on this forum with that on another forum?

Finally, I think that there's been some frustration among respondents to your questions because the way you've argued in this thread may have led some people to think that you've come to the discussion with a hypothesis already in mind and are trying to fit the evidence to the hypothesis rather than the reverse. As I'm sure I don't need to remind you, such an approach typically leads the person who holds the pre-formed hypothesis to feel that it's been confirmed when all available evidence may, to an unbiased observer, point in another direction.

I meant my profile picture is from Skylitzes, indicating an interest in Byzantine things. Finally, to clarify, I do not have anything in mind - People here know more about the functions of swords than I ever could. The only thing I know about double fullers is the french used them to make their long pointy blades more stiff, which seems contrary to the (of course we can't say for sure) short sword Michael carries.
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2022 1:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Mr. Kallander,

On Wednesday 6 July 2022, I wrote:
it is a dangerous argument to dismiss artistic convention in one instance while invoking it in another instance.
And on Thursday 7 July 2022, you wrote:
To assume something depicted represents something real in order to speculate about it is not dismissing artistic convetions, it is the premise of the discussion. Entertaining an idea is not accepting it. Artistic conventions should be used as arguments within the confines of the discussion.
I refer to your seeming reluctance to relinquish the idea that the represented sword may be short--perhaps very short--rather than of average length for a spathion but altered to fit the artist's needs.

You wrote:
To clarify . . . It is not impossible that the sword has a pommel, it just does not appear so to me. It would be a break from artistic convetions of the icon's period to depict the pommel and handle the same way without also depicting the guard so.
I understand that after the twelfth century, Western European sword styles supplanted most traditional Byzantine styles of single-handed, straight, double-edged swords. The appearance of the guard here suggests that the image may represent one of these later styles--as far as I can remember, native Byzantine styles have shorter guards. Do you know whether the convention of depicting the guard in the same way as the pommel and grip continues for the later, Westernized swords?

You wrote:
French cuirassier swords . . . are the only instance of double fullered blades I know of . . .
The Italian style of long dagger or short sword called the cinquedea typically has multiple fullers. There's a good one in Zach Luna's thread about his trip the Victoria and Albert Museum that clearly shows double fullers. There are some smaller images in Julien M's thread with photos from the Musée de l'Armée in Paris that show multiple fullers. A third thread, by Manouchehr M. with photos from the Louvre, has close-ups of the blade of a cinquedea that show the fullering. No doubt a search will turn up more images.

I wrote:
The genre's extreme stylization makes it difficult to rely on the image to accurately depict fine details of the sword's design.
You wrote:
This is not very relevant to the discussion at hand but I think the genre only becomes so in later times when both romans and russians start imitating old icons instead of depicting existing material culture.
Please recall my statement above about proportions in this icon. More than one mode of stylization is at work here.

You wrote:
. . . Finally, to clarify, I do not have anything in mind - People here know more about the functions of swords than I ever could. The only thing I know about double fullers is the french used them to make their long pointy blades more stiff, which seems contrary to the (of course we can't say for sure) short sword Michael carries.
Fullers don't stiffen blades. Fullered blades are in fact more flexible than similar (having the same length, width, taper, fundamental thickness (i.e., the thickness the blade would have without fullers), and fundamental cross-section (e.g., lenticular, diamond, or hexagonal--again, if there were no channels in the blade)) but unfullered blades are. What fullers actually do is to make blades lighter with a minimal loss of stiffness compared to an unfullered, thinner blade of the same weight, profile, and fundamental cross-section as the fullered blade.

Best,

Mark Millman
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