"An inlaid damasked rapier"

By the early seventeenth century, the rapier was most frequently seen in urban centers. Its light weight made it ideal for everyday use in the early modern period. Steel blades were produced primarily in Toledo and Milan, then shipped throughout Europe, and often a blade forged in Toledo would be mounted to a hilt elsewhere. Forgers' marks identified their provenances.

Among the most interesting weapons in the Ximenez household inventory is "an inlaid damasked rapier with a scabbard with a silver grip, with a mount and a belt embroidered with silver." A rapier from around 1600 in the Wallace Collection in London approximates the description of Ximenez's sword, with a silver handle covered in damascened inlay. This inlaid pattern was formed by filling decorative, interlaced grooves with silver or gold. Toledo remained the heart of this technique in Europe, exporting the Moorish technique as far as England. For artists like the Florentine Benvenuto Cellini damasked metalwork remained among the most difficult of technical processes; he stated that the Ottoman Turks ranked as the masters of the style in the cinquecento. For Giorgio Vasari, the material process likewise continued to recall its etymological origin in Damascus. Ximenez's rapier thus displayed a hybridity of technical knowledge, uniting a Spanish-Italian sword type with Eastern decorative technique.

Sean Nelson, Max Planck Institute, Florence


Hoffmeyer, Ada Bruhn. "From Medieval Sword to Renaissance Rapier." Art, Arms, and Armour: An International Anthology. Ed. Robert Held. Chiasso: Acquafresca, 1963. Vol. I, 52-79.

Rapier, c. 1600, The Wallace Collection, London. Image: © The Wallace Collection.