An 18th century flamberge cup-hilted rapier, likely of Spanish or Italian origin. This distinct sword features an ornate iron hilt with pierced cup guard and flanged rim; writhen quillons and knuckle-guard; pear-form pommel with chiseled spiral design; and silver wire bound grip with ‘Turk’s head’ knots. The undulating blade bears quality marks “T-O-M-A-S; A-I-A-L-A” (after Tomás de Ayala [var. Aiala]) flanked by orb-and-cross pictorial markings to the forte.
The flamberge or “flame-bladed” undulating pattern is close relative to the German flammenschwert two-handed sword. Flamberge rapiers were popularized in the 17th century among the aristocracy and officer class of Continental Europe. These remarkable serpentine forms not only served as ornamentation, but were favored for their light weight and parry advantage in fencing maneuvers. Swordsmiths continued to produce the unique pattern well into the 18th century when transitional rapiers and court swords took hold.
Tomás de Ayala (d. 1583) was considered to be an eminent Toledo bladesmith. Much of his working life remains a mystery, yet we know Tomás (the elder) was active during a period in the mid to late 1500s. The Ayala family is said to have used the posthumous name of “Tomas-Ayala” as a mark of quality. This tradition of name branding surely survived with younger generations of swordsmiths.
- significant tarnish, indents, rust and surface scratches, and general wear overall.