Lot 249
  • 249

A rare and important Crusader Sword from the Mamluk arsenal at Alexandria, Germany or Italy, late 14th century

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • steel
the straight double-edged steel blade steadily tapering towards a fine tip, the prominent fuller with maker's mark in inlaid gold and inscribed towards the forte, with a straight and perpendicular cross-guard, the hilt with wooden grip on either side of the tang, surmounted by a disc-shaped pommel


This item is in good overall condition. Minor losses to the blade. Loss of gilding to the inscription makes it partly illegible. Light darkening and oxidation marks throughout. Minor nicks to the wooden grip. Small nicks throughout, especially to the tip and pommel. As viewed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note


[hu]bs khaza'in al-silah bi-thaghr [al-iskanda]riyya ayyam al-a[mir] ...

'Donated to the armoury at the frontier city of Alexandria during the time of al-Amir ...'

This magnificent fourteenth century Crusader sword pertains to a group of European examples deposited in the Mamluk arsenal of Alexandria. The majority of these, as Ludvik Kalus notes, were donated during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and are mostly of typical form, with long double-edged blades, straight cross-guards and disc-shaped or wheel pommels (L. Kalus, 'Donations pieuses d'épées médiévales à l'arsenal d'Alexandrie', Revue des Études Islamiques, vol.I, Paris, 1982 (1991), p.1-174).

Though their original provenance is disputed, it has been suggested that they were taken in the aftermath of the final crusader attack on Alexandria, which was led by King Peter I in 1365. In any case, the presence of such weapons in the city is noted in a report by Guillebert de Lannoy. In 1422, travelling from Burgundy to procure information for a possible crusade, de Lannoy wrote: 'They have [at Alexandria] a house full of antique armour of the Christians; and all the modern which is presented to the Sultan, or won by him from the Christians, is deposited there' (Guillebert de Lannoy, 'A Survey of Egypt and Syria, undertaken in the year 1422, by Sir Gilbert de Lannoy', Rev. John Webb (tr.), in Archaelogia: or, Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Antiquity, vol. XXI, 1827, p.369).

Characteristically similar to the swords published by Kalus, the current lot falls under a sub-group of models with long grips, most of them now at the Military Museum in Istanbul (see D. Alexander, 'European Swords in the Collections of Istanbul Part I: Swords from the Arsenal of Alexandria', in Waffen und Kostümkunde, vol.27, 1985, pp.81-118). Its inscription, engraved on the forte, is only partly legible and the name following the word "a[mir]" cannot be authoritatively deciphered. It is important, however, to note that a very similar sword has been interpreted as bearing the name of Amir Faris al-Muhammad and is one of three Alexandria Arsenal examples now housed at Leeds Castle. Nonetheless, no other related inscriptions with the name Faris are recorded by Kalus in his article (Kalus, op.cit., 1982).

Attention can also be drawn to the gold inlaid maker's mark, which is also visible on the forte and could suggest that the blade is of German origin. Yet the possibility of Italian manufacture must not be dismissed, as a similar knightly sword with an analogous grip now in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection in London is considered to have probably been made in Milan (see D. Alexander, The Arts of War, London, 1992, no.31, pp.76-8).