A rare mediaeval sword taken from the Mamluk Arsenal at Alexandria was the top item in Bonhams sale of Antique Arms and Armour on November 28th in London. The sword, estimated to sell for £40,000 to £60,000, was eventually bought for £163,250 after stiff competition in a sale that made a total of £1m with 90% sold.
The mediaeval Crusader Italian-made sword was given as a gift to the Mamluk rulers of Alexandria by the Christian ruler of Cyprus and Jerusalem, King Peter I as part of a gift sealing a treaty.
King Peter I, the King of Cyprus and Jerusalem, launched the last Crusade in 1362 against the Muslim Mamluk Empire in the region. A fleet set out from Cyprus and proved victorious, taking the city of Alexandria with immense amounts of plunder returned to Cyprus, including this sword. Such was the treasure and weapons taken from the captured city that many of the overloaded ships had to jettison cargo.
David Williams, Head of Bonhams Antique Arms and Armour Department, says: "The fascination of this sword is that it has survived some six centuries having been gifted by a Christian King to a Muslim ruler and kept in the famed Alexandrian armoury and then taken by force by Crusaders and returned to Europe. It is a remarkable survivor of the Crusader period."
The sword has a flat tapering double-edged blade 92.5 cm. long and overall with the hilt 115.7cm. The weapon bears an inscription that reads: 'Hubs Khazain al-Silah bi thughri al-Iskandariyya ayyam al-Sayfi Faris al [...d.]', 'Donation to the armoury in the frontier city of Alexandria in the days of al-Sayfi Faris al- [Muhammadi]. Amir Faris was an inspector in 840H, corresponding to 1436-7 AD. Only three other swords appear to be recorded inscribed in the name of the Amir Faris. One in a private charitable foundation, another in Leeds Castle, Kent and the other in the Military Museum at Istanbul.
BUYERS STORM AUCTION FOR VIKING SWORDS
A stunning array of death-dealing swords from the Mediaeval period and earlier, including Viking weapons, formed the main thrust of Bonhams sale of Antique Arms and Armour on November 28th in Knightsbridge.
David Williams, Director of Arms and Armour at Bonhams, comments: "Many of these rare and remarkable weapons would have been used in battle. The scarring and damage goes some way to confirm this, though the years have also taken their toll."
Among the collection of swords in the sale from the distinguished Danish collector the late E.A. Christensen, there are some seven Viking swords dating from the 9th and tenth centuries when the Vikings were invading the British Isles on a regular basis. They ranged in pre-sale estimates from £2,000 to £8,000.
Lot 55, a Viking sword similar to one found in Ireland and estimated at £4,000 to £5,000, sold for a whopping £30,000.
A rare Viking sword from the 9th Century, found in 1887 in the mouth of the River Thieles, in Switzerland, (lot 57), estimated to sell for £6,000 to £8,000, made £27,500.
Lot 54, found in the River Meuse in Belgium estimated to sell for £3,500 to £4,500 made £10,625.
The Viking Age spanned the late 8th to 11th centuries. Scandinavian (Norse) Vikings explored Europe by its oceans and rivers through trade and warfare. In England the Viking Age began dramatically on 8 June 793 when Vikings destroyed the abbey on Lindisfarne, a centre of learning famous across the continent. Monks were killed in the abbey, thrown into the sea to drown or carried away as slaves along with the church treasures.
The Viking destruction of Lindisfarne on Northumbria's Holy Island was reported by the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin of York, who wrote: "Never before has such an atrocity been seen". More than any other single event, the attack on Lindisfarne cast a shadow on the perception of the Vikings for the next twelve centuries.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com