The Ximenez Weapons

The Ximenez weapons were primarily composed of three separate groups of objects: a set of swords kept in a chest in the back house, a small selection of rapiers in a white wooden box in the distillery, and a larger variety of firearms stored in a softwood case also in the distillery. Their physical distance from each other suggests that they were not intended to be displayed or formally presented as a collection. Other items such as clothing and alchemical equipment are listed in these containers with the edged weapons, implying that they were placed in general storage. By contrast the firearms were kept apart, unmixed with other items.

The edged weapons can be broken into two general categories: rapiers and cutlasses. These two types of weapons suggest the different roles that Emmanuel played in his life as knight and merchant, respectively. The rapier, with a thin blade and basket hilt, functioned as a symbol of elevated class. Knights were one of the few classes permitted to carry such an item in public. The cutlass, on the other hand, was the chosen weapon of sailors, reflecting Ximenez's engagement with the sea trade.

To carry a sword in a city like Antwerp required that the owner be prepared to use it: by the later sixteenth century dueling had become common practice in early modern Europe. Printed in Brussels in 1610, at the request of Archduke Albert, the edict Contre les defiz e duelz (the title is listed in the Ximenez inventory) declared that dueling was an evil against Christianity and anyone who participated or aided such efforts in the Spanish Netherlands would be arrested and have his goods confiscated. Nobles were forbidden from declaring duels orally, or passing formal notes or letters of challenge; instead the parties involved were advised to consult the Maistre de Camp General who would aid in their reconciliation. Ximenez's single broken rapier blade, recorded as being in the office, suggests a man engaged in practicing with such weapons and possibly a knight prepared to defend his honor in a duel.

The firearms were composed of a variety of pistols and muskets with different types of firing mechanisms, including matchlock, wheellock, snaphaunce, and possibly flintlock. At the beginning of the seventeenth century wheellocks still reigned as the most popular firing device throughout Northern Europe, though the more technologically advanced snaphaunces, present in the Ximenez household, were gaining in popularity. The majority of the muskets listed were likely used for hunting. A short-barreled variety of musket, referred to as a carbine and used while on horseback, appears in various places throughout the inventory. These hunting firearms represent the more quotidian, less ostentatious type of gun. The pairs of pistols, on the other hand, stood as a marker of social class, similar to the rapier. Because of their small size and delicate nature the pistols required frequent servicing, ensuring that only the wealthiest could afford to use this type of gun. Accordingly the pistols also appear to be of a more decorative nature, fashioned with mother-of-pearl, gilded, or inlaid with silver. Emmanuel's pistols also represent a broad range of regional types, including French, German, and Lorraine.

A small selection of weapons remains outside of these groupings. These included a "traveling" sword, probably a practical object in regular use. The steel crossbow listed would have been used for hunting or in archery competitions, as firearms had largely displaced their use in combat. A damasked dagger and a Turkish scimitar were likely displayed as decorative items, while the halberds must have functioned as home furnishings.

Emmanuel Ximenez's relationship with weaponry should further be considered in the context of his role as head of the Antwerp chapter of the Knights of Saint Stephen. Ximenez owned several printed histories of knighthood, including Albertus Miraeus's On the Origin of Knightly and Military Orders, published in Antwerp in 1609. This history of the most prominent European knighthoods begins with the Knights of Saint John, but for Ximenez, the conclusion of Miraeus's work likely proved more significant. The author culminates his history with the foundation of the Knights of Saint Stephen, placing the Florentine knighthood in a long tradition of crusading orders. Founded in 1561 by Duke Cosimo I de' Medici, the Cavalieri di Santo Stefano received official sanction from Pope Pius IV and acted under the auspices of the church rather than on imperial authority. As head of the Antwerp branch of the order, Ximenez could count himself in rare and elite company, locked in a historical struggle against Muslim powers that traced its roots back to the first crusade.

Sean Nelson, Max Planck Institute, Florence


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Ciano, Cesare. I primi medici e il mare. Pisa: Pacini Editore, 1980.