Halberd

2929.2

This weapon was designed specifically for use against armored and mounted opponents. The long staff would allow the point at the top of the blade to hold a mounted enemy at bay. The edge of the blade delivered a powerful chopping blow, and the spike in back would have been very effective at piercing armor. The Swiss used such weapons to deadly effect against armored knights. (Age of Armor)

Description

Stiff quadranglar thrusting spike arising from flat base with offset open socket having pair of long langets secured with nails & square ring at top. Short staight pointed fluke, cusped above & below opposed by cleaver-like axe head with angled cutting edge; upper & lower edges have dentated cusps. Axe head pierced with trefoil shaped horizontal cross. Wooden staff of octagonal section tapering slightly to unshod butt. One-piece steel head, with broad axe blade having an oblique cutting edge, and dentated cusping above and below. The blade is opposed by a thick, downturned triangular fluke similarly disposed, with a lobated, shallow step at the base. The body of the axeblade is transversely pierced by a trefoil motif whose base is drawn out in a sharp point facing the coket. Arising from a rectangular-section base in line with the haft, is an apical thrusting spike of moderate length. This is stout, of quadrangular section, and tapers slightly to its point. The socket of the head is formed in one with the body, and is set slightly off-axis towards the fluke. Open at its sides, by a pair of now vacant holes; these probablu were for the nails securing the head to its original haft. The socket continues down the haft as a pair of long, flat langets fastened to the haft by iron nails. There are five preserved on the longer langet, and four on the other; some are domed, others plain. The upper junction of head and haft is reinforced by a square iron ring, most likely a later addition. The present haft, while apparently old, seems to be a later replacement. It is of wood, hexagonal in section, and tapers gently towards its bluntly rounded, unshod butt.

Curator's Comments

In the absence of provenance and marks, it is not possible to provide a firm place of origin for the piece. Compared to generally similar examples in those collections cited here, however, a German or perhaps Swiss origin seems likely. Dating poses a somewhat similar problem, but the 1st quarter of the 16th century is quite probable, with ca. 1550 as the latest date likely.

Bibliography

Claude, Blair, European and American Arms, ca. 1100-1850 (London: B.T. Batsford, Ltd., 1962); p. 26 (general date on halberds).
Helmut Nickel, Ullstein Waffenbuch (Berlin: Verlag Ullstein, GmbH, 1974), p. 214 (concerning development and evolution).
Carl Otto von Kienbusch, et al., The Kretzschmar von Kienbusch Collection of Armor and Arms (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Library, 1963), catalogue no. 485 (compare overall form and outline to this which is given as German or Swiss, ca. 1490; date probably too early. This is now PMA 1977-167-324. Compare also no. 491, PMA 1977-167-335, with a similar treatment to its edges, given as Swiss, ca. 1530).
Mario Troso, Le Armi in Asta, della Fanterie Europee (1000-1500), Novara, Italy: IGDA, 1988, p. 117, no. 6 (a rather similar example in a private collection, given as 16th century).
Charles Buttin, Les Armes d'Hast (Paris: Musee de l'Armee, 1936/7), p. 154, figs. 33(d), 34(a) (section XIV. "La Hallebarde", for discussion).

Publication & Exhibit History

Sale catalogue of the collection formed by Edward Hubbard Litchfield, Parke-bernet Galleries (NYC), sale no. 1293, 5/6 December, part of lot 105. (HAM 2929.1 & .2).

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