European Sword

  • Dated: probably 3rd quarter of 16th century
  • Maker: Ulrich Diefstetter (active between 1555 – 1589)
  • Geography: Munich, Germany
  • Medium: iron or steel, wood and fish-skin, blackened
  • Measurements: overall length 107 cm; width 3.3 cm; weight 1.59 kg
  • Inscriptions: the maker’s mark, including the crossed flails of Diefstetter and the shield of Bavaria

The sword has a blackened hilt made up of a cone-shaped pommel of octagonal section. The shouldered grip is made of wood and bound with fish-skin. The long straight, spatulated guard is engraved with feathering at the ends on the left side, while the knuckle-guard, side-ring, pas d’âne, and counter-guards are all riband-like and of triangular section. The single-edge blade (except towards the point) is doubly grooved and stamped with the maker’s work.

This sword probably comes from Schloss Ambras in Tyrol where a considerable number of comparable swords survive. Other examples bearing like marks are to be found in the Armeria Reale, Turin (G 16), at the Hermitage, St. Petersburg (B 402), and at Vienna (Boeheim, Album I, Taf. XI 2). In addition to this swords marked with the crossed flails of Diefstetter and the shield of Bavaria are a hand-and-a half sword in the Pauilhac Collection; one sold at Sotheby’s, 15 August, 1941, lot 19; and another in the Lockett Collection, sold Christie’s, 1942, lot 307.


  1. The swordsmith Melchior Diefstetter worked at Au near Munich.
  2. He was the son of Caspar I and is recorded as not being of full age in 1497. 
  3. About 1523 he was recorded with two sons, Georg and Ulrich. He died in or before 1556 and was survived by a widow, Barbara, and eight children still minors.
  4. One of his other sons, Caspar II, was a swordsmith in Munich by 1537 and died in 1552. His son Ulrich was Bavarian court swordsmith “in der Au”, and is recorded by frequent payments in the Ducal accounts between 1555 and 1589.
  5. A sword blade inscribed ARIAS PANTMER IN VRI / VLRICH DIEFSTETER IN MANAGI, with the arms of Bavaria and the monk’s head of Munich stamped on it, is in the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, Zurich (Inv. No. LM27328; Schneider, 1980, No. 183).
  6. A fourth generation of the family is represented by Arsatius Diefstetter, active 1588-1616, and a fifth by his sons Hans, who died in 1613, and Albrecht, active 1616 to 1630, latterly in Passau. (H. Stocklein, Z.H. W.K., VIII, 1918-20, pp. 371 and 375-82).
  7. If the blades of this group of swords are contemporary with the hilts, they are probably by Ulrich Diefstetter rather than by Melchior, to whom they are usually attributed as Ulrich Diefstetter also used the mark of crossed flails, often in conjunction with the head of a bull transfixed with an arrow.

Source: Copyright © 2016 The Wallace Collection

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