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Cinquedea

  • Place of origin:

    Venice (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1480 - 1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel with ivory and pierced and engraved brass

  • Museum number:

    478-1901

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 19

A cinquedea is a large dagger with a double-edge triangular blade very wide at the hilt and fluted in straight lines from the hilt towards the point. The quillons (crossbars to guard the hand) are short and curve slightly towards the blade. The name cinquedea is derived from the width of the blade which was supposed to be five fingers wide at the hilt.

The cinquedea was a civilian sword carried horizontally at the back in a belt and housed in a leather or cloth-covered scabbard. It was placed horizontally so that it could be drawn easily by the right hand. It was used primarily as a thrusting weapon designed for close combat and self defence. There are very few variations in form but they were produced in a range of sizes. Most fall between daggers and short swords in length. Many had their blades etched and gilt and a few traces remain on this one.

Physical description

Cinquedea of steel with an ivory hilt mounted in pierced and engraved brass, the blade formerly gilt with traces of etched inscriptions and ornament. The rounded end of the pommel has a brass mount decorated with foliage, the ivory grip is ornamented with four medallions of gothic tracery in brass. The ends of the guard curve towards the wedge shaped grooved blade.

Place of Origin

Venice (probably, made)

Date

1480 - 1500 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Steel with ivory and pierced and engraved brass

Marks and inscriptions

'...INVS'
One side of blade

'...VALAR'
Other side of blade

Dimensions

Length: 55.7 cm blade, Length: 15.3 cm hilt, Width: 15.6 cm, Depth: 1.8 cm, Weight: 1.04 kg

Object history note

The sword was formerly in the Raoul Richard Collection in Paris. It was subsequently in the sale of the W.H. Spiller collection at Christie's where it was bought by the Museum via Mr G.R. Harding for £55. Its provenance prior to the 19th century is unknown.

Historical context note

A cinquedea is a large dagger with a double-edged, triangular blade very wide at the hilt and fluted in straight lines to the point. The quillons (crossbar to guard the hand) are short and curve slightly towards the blade. The name cinquedea is derived from the width of the blade which was supposed to be five fingers wide at the hilt.

The cinquedea was a civilian sword carried horizontally at the back in belt and housed in a leather or cloth-covered scabbard. It was placed horizontally so that it could be drawn easily by the left hand. It was used primarily as a thrusting weapon designed for close combat and self defence.. There are very few variations in form but they were produced in a range of sizes. Most fall between daggers and short swords in length. Many had their blades etched and gilt and a few traces remain on this one.

Cinquedeas were developed in northern Italy particularly around Venice. Florio's 1611 Italian/English Dictionary Queen Anna's New World of Words has "Cinquedita a weapon but fiue fingers long used in Venice".

Descriptive line

Cinquedea, the ivory grip mounted in pierced and engraved brass, the blade formerly gilt with etched inscriptions and ornament, Italy (probably Venice), 1480-1500

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

North, Anthony, An Introduction to European Swords, Victoria and Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1982, ISBN 0 11 290378 9, p. 6, fig. 2
Coe, Michael D. et al, Swords and Hilt Weapons, Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1993, ISBN 1-56619-249-8, p. 49
Blair, Claude, European and America Arms c.1100-1850, B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1962, pp. 4 and fig. 63
Dufty, Arthur Richard, European Swords and Daggers in the Tower of London, HMSO, London, 1974
Stone, George Cameron, A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times, Jack Brussel, New York, 1934, pp. 182-183

Materials

Steel; Ivory; Brass

Techniques

Forging; Carving; Etching; Gilding

Categories

Arms & Armour; Accessories; Death; Fashion; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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