Object Title

Halberd

Halberd

Date

1500-1530

Object Number

VII.962

Provenance

Old Tower collection; possibly Tudor Royal Armouries, probably one of the 'Spanish halberts' listed in the 1676 Tower inventory.

Physical Description

Axe-blade with straight cutting edge, triply cusped on its upper and lower edges. A short fluke at the rear is set on a wide, cusped base, the whole surmounted by a stout top spike of flattened rectangular section at the base and stiff diamond section above. Rectangular section socket extending down the modern haft in two long langets, each with 5 nails. The head is partly pierced through with five small circles near which is stamped a mark. The head has etched decoration as follows:


outside face:
main blade - in centre, medallion containing classical profile head; upper and lower (cusped) edges have a border of volute line scrolls; foliate scroll border at junction with socket.
rear fluke - a panel of the shape of the top element of the fluke containing a foliate volute.
base of top spike - St Sebastian (arrows in abdomen, knee, thigh and arm).
socket - nude boy with a stack of graded bowls/vases balanced on his head with foliage, the whole stack somewhat resembling a fountain.


inside face:
main blade - in centre, medallion containing a pattern of four radiating flower petals and five semi-piercings (i.e. not right through) arranged in a cross; upper and lower (cusped) edges have a border of volute line scrolls; foliate scroll border at junction with socket.
rear fluke - a panel of the shape of the top element of the fluke containing a foliate volute.
base of top spike - warrior saint with sword and palm, possibly St Michael.
socket - St Barbara with similar motifs as on outside, but not supported on saint's head.


Traces of gilding remain in the hatched grounds of the decoration.

Dimensions

Dimensions: Overall length: 2323 mm (91.4 in), length of head: 520 mm (20.5 in), length of langets: 559 mm (22 in)

Inscriptions and Marks

On the inside of the blade: possibly a fleur-de-lis (drawing in 6' x 4' marks cards - p-copy on inv. file).

Associations

Places Italy

Bibliographic References

A. Borg, 'The Spanish Armoury in the Tower' Archaeologia Vol. CV, 1976, pp. 347, pl. XCIc [CHECK if another page ref.].

A V B Norman and G M Wilson, Treasures from the Tower of London, Norwich, 1982, pp. 67 (illus.), 68, no. 51.

M.J. RodrÝguez-Salgado and others, Armada 1588-1988 (exhibition catalogue), Penguin Books with the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich), London, 1988, p. 137, no. 7.39 (illus.).

Notes

The 'Spanish General's Halbert' described in 18th century guidebooks and shown in the Spanish Armoury.
This halberd has often been regarded as being part of Henry VIII's arsenal but it is the only example of this shape now in the collection and the technique and style of decoration is different from those commonly found on other weapons thought to have come from Henry's arsenal.
Prior to typing in the full record from the IBE, this computer record had the date c.1520, probably taken from the display label in the Tower Renaissance Gallery.