Early history of the modern fencing: sabre, ...

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Re: Early history of the modern fencing: sabre, ...

Postby Thearos » 16 Feb 2014 14:39

A pedantic correction: the "gladius hispanensis" is the normal gladius (short, waisted, slash-and-stab) adopted by the Romans instead of the long Greek-style sword), not the falcata. But you're right, in that the Greeks and Macedonians did have chopping swords. (Livy's source is Polybios, who knew what he was talking about, but not always well reproduced by Livy)

(Source: of course, any book on Roman military equipment, but especially P. Connolly's incomparable "Rome and its enemies")
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 28 Feb 2014 09:56

A Hungarian sabre fencing school has recreated a fencing dummy allegedly used before 1945 at the Royal Hungarian Army School of Physical Training (named after Miklós Toldy).

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Re:

Postby Chris Holzman » 02 Mar 2014 04:41

Ulrich von L...n wrote:A Hungarian sabre fencing school has recreated a fencing dummy allegedly used before 1945 at the Royal Hungarian Army School of Physical Training (named after Miklós Toldy).

toldi_babu.jpg


I'm impressed. We had one at the club I grew up in that had a chest and head, movable arm and weapon. This has to be several orders of magnitude cooler. I will admit I always found time with the dummy to be very rewarding so long as you recognized its limitations.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 04 Mar 2014 08:39

I'm impressed... This has to be several orders of magnitude cooler.

The fencing school, called Magyar Szablyavívó Iskola (Hungarian Sabre Fencing School), with several chapters in major cities, says that they teach military fencing with strikes to legs. This could explain the cooler lower part (legs) of the dummy.

Some critical remarks.
It is difficult to thrust the white heart with a Olympic sabre (a rolled up tip might slip on the leather surface of the dummy). It seems to me that the dummy's elbow is in a wrong position (too much to the outside, not in a proper tierce guard). But all in all it is indeed a very cool training tool, the publication of this picture just gave me additional inspiration to finish the arm of my own fencing dummy.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 04 Mar 2014 08:51

In the background of the new dummy you could find some old drawings of fencing dummies.

babu_2_kicsi.jpg
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Unfortunately I don't know the source of these drawings, hopefully will be able to identify the original book. Something very similar from a Soviet-era fencing book (1967):

bu_138.png
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which isn't surprising at all, because Hungarian fencing masters were forced to teach Soviet fencers.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 11 Mar 2014 08:21

After reading Zbigniew Czajkowski's article Domenico Angelo - Great Fencing Master of the 18th Century, Champion of Fencing as a Sport I have tried to find some evidence that Angelo indeed considered a fencing mask effeminate.

While searching I have come across a very richly illustrated blog entry, Fencing Material Culture:
http://scattershotgaz.wordpress.com/fen ... l-culture/

It is absolutely stunning!
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 11 Mar 2014 08:31

Image

AFAIK this is the first known depiction of a wire fencing mask with ties (1782), from Alexandre Picard Bremond's fencing manual published in Turin. This info makes Thomas Rowlandson's I Shall Conquer This water-colour (1787), showing a wire mask on the floor, the solid second.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 11 Mar 2014 08:39

There is another interesting image from 1686:

Image
In the lower left corner there are two blunted (also called rebated or foiled) rapiers and what appears to be a fencing mask (based on its proximity to the rapiers). Gioventù (Youth), Giuseppe Maria Mitelli.

The fencing mask is very similar to the variant depicted in the Diderot’s Encyclopedia (1765), “Fencing” Plate XV.

A larger version of the image: http://scattershotgaz.files.wordpress.c ... elli13.jpg
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 17 Mar 2014 10:33

It might happen that an interesting prototype (?) of a wire fencing mask is depicted on this engraving from 1773.
Text: "The D—— of [...] – playing at foils with her favorite lap dog Mungo after expending near £10000 to make him a———-*"
http://scattershotgaz.files.wordpress.c ... =894&h=605

From another source:
Title: The Duchess of Queensberry and Soubise
Creator(s): Austin, William, 1721-1820, engraver
Date Created/Published: Pubd as the act directs May 1st 1773, 1773.
Summary: A fencing match between a Black man and the Duchess whose face is concealed by a fencing mask.
Notes: Catalogue of prints and drawings in the British Museum. Division I, political and personal satires, v. 5, no. 5120.
Forms part of: British cartoon Prints collection (Library of Congress).

Subjects: Queensberry, Catherine Douglas,--Duchess of,--1700 or 1-1777.
Size: Approximately 20.3cm x 30.5cm

Details:

Duchess_1773.jpg
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 17 Mar 2014 11:06

Also interesting (social, ... etc.) implications:
"Catherine Hyde, afterwards Duchess of Queensbury (born 1701, died 1777) was a noblewoman. Julius Soubise (1754 – 25 August 1798) was a freed Afro-Caribbean slave who became a well-known fop in 1760s/1770s Britain. He was one of the most prominent black persons in Britain at the time."

Fencing at the age of 72? Well...
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 17 Mar 2014 16:17

In 1764 Captain Stair Douglas of the Royal Navy mentioned to the Duchess of Queensbury that he had in his possession a smart and intelligent Negro boy, aged about 10, whom he had bought in St.Kitts. Would the Duchess like him as a present? Struck by the African's good looks as well as his intelligence, the Duchess accepted him. She named him Soubise, sent him to school, dressed him well and generally made a pet of him as was the fashion of the day. Apparently he attended Eton and was said to be a good violinist, to have a good singing voice and oratorical skills.

The grateful and affectionate youth soon won the Duke's favour as well, who sent him to Domenico Angelo's Academy, the foremost school for learning fencing and the niceties of riding. The Duchess and her friends frequently attended the visitors' gallery at the Academy to watch her favourite perform his equestrian exercises. The Duchess even managed to persuade Angelo to take Soubise as his articled assistant to teach riding and fencing.

Though Angelo feared that Soubise's 'colour and humble birth might have made him repulsive to his high born pupils' he acquiesced to the Duchess' wishes. Soubise's engaging manner and good nature soon proved Angelo's fears unfounded, and he was a frequent guest at the all-male exclusive dinner parties held at the Academy. He was also a regular guest at other sporting clubs for gentlemen, where he sang songs of his own composition.

As he grew up, Soubise's good looks, pleasant manners and undoubted gifts for gallantry won him the favour of the Duchess' maids, as well, it was rumoured, of the Duchess and numbers of other ladies. However, all this attention apparently spoilt the young man, who began to assume princely airs, becoming one of the most conspicuous -and seemingly over-scented - fops around town. Angelo dismissed him from his most congenial job at the Academy. Though the Duchess repeatedly discharged his large debts, he slowly also began to lose her favour.

The final straw was the attempted rape of one of the Duchess' maids, who insisted on prosecuting him. Two days before her death on 17 July 1777, he was sent off to India to earn his living as an accomplished master of riding and fencing. Ignatius Sancho wrote to friends enlisting their aid for the exile, but warning them not to lend Soubise any money. He established an academy in Calcutta, and, through connections, was able to obtain numerous patrons and pupils and even a contract to break horses for the government. Soubise died on 25 August 1798. Nothing is known of his life in India.

From: http://www.100greatblackbritons.com/bio ... ubise.html
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 17 Mar 2014 16:41

Her black protégé was satirized at the expence of herself; and, among other instances, Austin, the caricaturist, published a print, with the tall duchess and Soubise engaged, like D'Eon and St. George, in a public fencing match.

From Reminiscences of Henry Angelo: With Memoirs of His Late Father and ... by Henry Angelo,
Volume I, page 450
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 20 Mar 2014 07:47

In the high resolution image at http://images.library.yale.edu/walpolew ... lwlpr03665
the following details are clearly visible after zooming:

- Soubise says:
"Mungo here Mungo dere, Mungo Ev'ry where, above, & below Hah! Vat your Gracy tink of me now",

- the inscription on the open book beneath Soubise:
"Les Ecole des Armes avec des Attudes(?) et(?) Positions par Angelo"

Also it is clearly visible that the left side of the mask is made of two separate parts: upper 1/3 and lower 2/3, with a narrow gap between two parts. This gap is basically the continuation of the eye slot. It is possible to identify a reinforced edge of the mask. The button of the foil measures 7 units, depending of the magnification, the eye slot is approx. 4 units wide, so the mask offers reasonably good eye protections, basically the same proportion could be found while measuring the mask and the foil with a really bulky button in the Diderot’s Encyclopedia (1765).
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 20 Mar 2014 07:55

The full and correct title of Domenico Angelo's book:
L’Ecole des Armes, avec l’explication generale des principales attitudes et positions concernant l’Escrime. Dediee a Leurs Altesses Royales Les Princes Guillaume-Henry & Henry-Frederic.
First edition, oblong folio, 30.5 X 47cm, [121]p., 47 leaves of plates, Londres: Chez R. & J. Dodsley, Pall-Mall, 1763.

47 plates after John Gwynn by Hall (25), Ryland (13), Grignion (5), Elliot (2) and Chamber and Gwynn (1 each). The first edition of the “chief work of English fencing” (Castle p.212). The cost of producing this magnificent work was underwritten by the 263 subscribing patrons and pupils of Angelo listed at the front of the book.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 25 Mar 2014 16:17

Who invented the wire-mesh fencing mask?

While fencing jackets came into use for practice swordplay relatively early, the fencing mask was not introduced until well after the seventeenth century. As mentioned above, this makes the issue of padding the tip of practice rapiers critically important. The earliest illustration of a protective mask that I have found is in Domenico Angelo’s article on “Escrime”, published in Volume 21 of L’Encyclopedie of Diderot and D’Alembert in 1765. [36] Were this mask not depicted with other fencing practice implements, one would not think of it as a fencing mask at all, but merely as a theatrical mask. (see Figures 13 & 14) Nevertheless, the small size of the eye openings, especially when combined with a large padded ball on the rapier tip, should have afforded good eye protection.

The “modern” style of fencing mask, that is, a mask with a wire mesh covering the entire face, is generally treated as an invention of about 1770 or 1780 by the French fencing master la Boëssiere. That said, none of the many modern sources I have seen provide any period documentation to support this claim; [37] nor does la Boëssiere’s son, generally known simply as M. la Boëssiere, mention it in his own major fencing manual published in 1818. [38] The earliest reference to such a mask of which I am aware is by Alexandre Picard Brémond in his Traité en Raccourci sur l’Art des Armes (1782): “A sturdy mask of iron wire to avoid being hurt in the eyes, struck in a tooth, and the many other accidents... .” [38A] The earliest illustration I have found of wire-mesh fencing masks is in Thomas Rowlandson’s colored engraving of “Mr. H. Angelo’s Fencing Academy at the Opera House, Haymarket 1789”, attributed to 1790 or 1791. [39] (see Figures 15 & 16) In any case, it is clear that this critical protective device post dates the Renaissance and early modern eras by a over a century.

From: Practice for the Duel by Dr. Patri J. Pugliese, Academia in Artibus Desuetis
"This paper was presented at the Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies, Amherst, Massachusetts, at the Third Annual Conference on Historical Swordsmanship, April 28, 2007."

http://www.umass.edu/renaissance/lord/pdfs/Practice.pdf
NOTES
36.
Domenico Angelo, “Escrime”, published in Volume 21 of L’Encyclopedie (1765) of Diderot and D’Alembert, Plate XV, Fig. 52.

37.
Egerton Castle refers in his seminal work on the history of fencing, Schools and Masters of Fence from the Middle Ages to the End of the Eighteenth Century, Revised Edition (London: 1892) to “Monsieur de la Boëssiere, one of the most eminent members of the Compaigne [l’Académie d’Armes], especially celebrated as having been one of the masters of the Chevalier de Saint George, and as the inventor of wire masks.”(p. 238.) Castle notes that Boëssiere introduced these masks in about 1750, and that they were like those depicted in some of Rowlandson’s drawings, having strings to tie them on the head.(p. 238, n. 2.) Castle observes elsewhere in his book that “Full masks with wired openings for the eyes seem indeed to have been worn in some salles d’armes about the middle of the century, but they were generally proscribed in fashionable schools as unnecessary to good players, who were always supposed to place their hits on their adversary’s breast.” (pp. 225-226.)

Several more recent secondary sources (including a number of computer websites) concur in attributing the invention and introduction of wire-faced masks to Boëssiere, occasionally referencing Castle as the source for this information; but most often giving no source whatsoever.

38.
M. La Boessiere. Traite de L’Art des Armes (Paris:L’Imprimerie de Didot, 1818)

38A.
Alexandre Picard Brémond. Traité en Raccourci sur l’Art des Armes (Turin: 1782). Translated in: William M.Gaugler. The History of Fencing, Foundations of Modern European Swordplay (Bangor, Maine: Laureate Press, 1998), p. 70.

39.
Thomas Rowlandson’s colored engraving of “Mr.H[enry]. Angelo’s Fencing Academy at the Opera House, Haymarket 1789”, attributed to 1790 or 1791.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 25 Mar 2014 16:30

Also there is an earlier source: Arsène Vigeant's fencing bibliography La bibliographie de l'escrime ancienne et moderne (1882). Note No 42:
La Boëssière père, le professeur de Saint-Georges, inventa, vers 1750, le masque à treillis, à peu près semblable à celui dont nous nous servons aujourd'hui, mais sans les côtés. Plusieurs maîtres refusèrent longtemps de l'adopter dans leurs Salles comme étant une garantie indigne des bons tireurs. Ce ne fut qu'au commencement de notre siècle, et à la suite de plusieurs accidents graves, qu'il fut rigoureusement imposé dans les assauts.

What we have earlier than Vigeant's attribution?
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Re: Early history of the modern fencing: sabre, ...

Postby Phil C » 25 Mar 2014 18:10

Translation of La Boessiere Jr's description of his father's invention of effectivemesh masks- plate masks being much older, and less useful (published 1818):
The Usefulness of Masks
It is a fact that M. la Boëssière made an unappreciated advance in the iron-mesh masks generally in use today. Before him masks with tinplate were used where one fenced the routine with a feint; but the durability of the iron was not of a useful strength for the face, for this reason there were little used and fencers always ran the risk of being maimed; the number of accidents brought about made M. La Boëssière to have the idea of proper masks: there are two sorts those with a strap and those with a tongue. I prefer the latter because those with a strap are inconvenient when turning or wobble and in the assault one courts the danger of receiving a blow to the face.
I also approve of the use of guards which are placed on top to protect the head. In spite of detractors I have adopted buff jackets because one cannot take too many precautions to avoid accidents. This jacket must be finished with buff up to waist height and around the buttons up to four inches around the back. The buff extends also under the right arm by about six inches to protect the armpit. Thus equipped with mask, jacket and a large handkerchief round the neck one has little to fear from an adversary even if he plays a hard game and he is one of those fencers with a low hand and a withdrawn arm, against whom it is dangerous, but nevertheless it is necessary to combat to become strong.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 27 Mar 2014 10:16

Phil,
Thank you very much for the clarification.

The original text can be found on page 11 of Traité de l'art des armes: a l'usage des professeurs et des amateurs (1818) by La Boëssiere Jr.
"De l'utilité des masques"
... des masques de fil-fer, généralement en usage aujourd'hui. Avant lui on se servoit de masques de fer-blanc d'ou l'on tiroit le jour par une fente; mais la dureté du fer étoit fort incommode sur la figure..."

My French is very basic, but it seems that "but the durability of the iron was not of a useful strength for the face" kind of mistranslation (?), isn't it?. It is more like something: "but the hardness of iron (mask) was very inconvenient for the face".
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 27 Mar 2014 10:19

BTW what sources support the alleged date of invention of mesh fencing mask around 1750 or between 1770-80?
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Re:

Postby Phil C » 27 Mar 2014 11:27

Ulrich von L...n wrote:My French is very basic, but it seems that "but the durability of the iron was not of a useful strength for the face" kind of mistranslation (?), isn't it?. It is more like something: "but the hardness of iron (mask) was very inconvenient for the face".

Yup- forgot to say it was " quick n dirty" translation and i missed that when rereading it through.
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