Crying over spilt Castlemilk: The Tale of Sir William and the Silver Sallet Part 4

This fourth, and the following piece, of this six-part essay examines the evidence available to provide an explanation as to where such equipment as Sir William Stewart of Castlemilk’s silver sallet may have come from: purchase and plunder.

Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s Silver Banner

Glasgow’s Mitchell Library holds an exceptionally rare document. It is a later copy of the now-lost original will made by Sir Robert Maxwell of Calderwood at Angers in 1420. Calderwood Castle (now demolished) was just seven miles south of Sir William’s at Castlemilk. The arms of the Maxwell kindreds are variations of argent (silver), a saltire sable.[1]

Fig.1: Battle of Otterburn – Death of Douglas and Capture of Sir Ralph Percy by Sir John Maxwell, Glasgow Museums, NR.89.

Sir Robert bequeaths one armour (‘vna’ armatura’’), one Milanese-made hauberk (‘vnam lauricam de milam [sic]’), and ‘totam Integram armatura’ meam factam apud poictiers’.[2] His ‘complete armour made at Poitiers’ is an enigma. There is, as yet, no information on armour production in this city. It must be borne in mind that there were places of production other than such celebrated urban centres as Milan. As the Baron de Cosson sagely advises in reference to one of the largest of the city’s family firms: ‘we must not get Missaglias on the brain’.[3]

Fig.2: Right gauntlet, probably made by the Missaglia armour-making family of Milan, 15th century. Associated with the ‘Avant’ armour E.1939.65.e, Glasgow Museums, E.1939.65.e.13.

Indeed, A. V. B. Norman has convincingly argued that a pauldron (plate shoulder defence) in Glasgow Museums’ collection has a mark that is most likely that of a Milanese craftsman who had set up in Tours.[4]

Fig.3: Steel Pauldron, Italian or French, 1490–1500, Glasgow Museums, E.1939.65.o.[2].

Pierre Terjanian has discovered that a sallet in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection was made by a previously-unknown craftsman in Basel.[5] There are bound to be many more just waiting to be identified.

This bequest is evidence that Sir Robert had commissioned bespoke armour. Four of the harnesses (complete plate armours) purchased from our Tours-based Milanese – as identified in the second essay – were made to measure (‘harnoiz faiz à mesure’).

Not Scot-Free

Another glimpse of the goings-on in France is an entry in an inventory of an armourer’s workshop at Tours compiled in 1512. There is ‘one pair of gauntlets worth 2 écus, made for a Scot’ (‘une paire de gantheletz prisés deux escuz, fait pour ung Escossoys’).[6] As with the makers and urban centres there must be much more documentary evidence of this nature in libraries and archives.

Armour and weapons might be acquired in the most unusual of circumstances. A good example is the extraordinary phenomenon of merchants being granted permission to purchase armour in London for a Scottish earl at exactly the same time as this formidable warrior was waging war against his English foe in the Borders.[7] That Sir William may have paid for the silver sallet himself is a strong possibility. Yet there is another – a grim scenario that will be dealt with in the next installment.

[1] Those of Calderwood (‘de quarehut’) are recorded in Berry Herald’s Armorial on fol. 160r, as are other Maxwells on fol. 158r and fol. 161v.

[2] Glasgow, Mitchell Library, T-PM99/1.

[3] C. A. de Cosson, ‘Milanese Armourers’ Marks’, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 36 (March 1920), 149-53 (p. 153). For more on the wide popularity of Lombard and South German products see R. Moffat, ‘Armour’, in A Companion to Chivalry, ed. by Robert W. Jones and Peter Coss (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2019), pp. 159-85.

[4] A. V. B. Norman, ‘A Pauldron in the Scott Collection’, Scottish Art Review, 7 (1960) 8-11.

[5] Pierre Terjanian, ‘Armor Made in Basel: A Fifteenth-Century Sallet Attributed to Hans Blarer the Younger’, Metropolitan Museum Journal, 36 (2001), 155-59.

[6] J.-B. Giraud, Documents pour servir à l’histoire de l’armement au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance, 2 vols (Lyon: Giraud, 1895-1904), I, 174, citing Tours, Archives d’Indre-et-Loire, minutes Foussedouaire, t. IX. These are almost certainly the minutes of Jacques Foussedouaire, notaire royal (1495-1532): cote 3E1.

[7] R. Moffat, ‘“A hard harnest man”: The Armour of George Dunbar, 9th Earl of March’, Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian & Field Naturists’ Society, 30 (2015), 21-37.

Sword and Buckler in Hebrew Letters: Traces of Early Illuminated German Fight Books in Jewish Manuscripts

Two manuscripts produced in early fourteenth-century German-speaking areas reflect similar iconography of  fighting with sword and buckler; one is the well-known fencing treatise, Leeds, Royal Armouries, MS I. 33, produced ca. 1320,[1] and the other is a Hebrew manuscript of the Bible made in 1304, that will be the focus of this article. Four figures with sword and buckler are portrayed as masorah figurata[2] on the lower margins of the opening page of Hebrew Bible, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France héb. 9, fols 104v-105r (figs. 1-2). All four are wearing gloves with long cuffs, holding swords and bucklers, and have their outer garments rolled up to their waists and tucked into their belts in order to free their legs, and because of this we can see their positioning. I wish to demonstrate in this preliminary research, that the iconography was adapted from German Fechtbücher (fight books), and demonstrate how Hebrew illuminated manuscripts can shed more light on the study of fight books iconography.

Figure 1: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France héb. 9, fols 104v–105r, Germany 1304
Figure 2: Detail. BnF, MS héb. 9, fols 104v–105r

The micrography-forming verses in this manuscript are from Jeremiah 10.22–13.1. Not all the words that make up the image come from Jeremiah 10–13 and most of them are related to Jeremiah 11.22: ‛The young men shall die by the sword, their boys and girls shall die by famine’. Thus, it is clear that the artist’s choice of verses for the micrography was intended to relate not only to the words of Jeremiah, but also to the meaning of the opening page and with a focus on the sword and the danger about which the prophecy speaks. The clothing of the figures discussed here is not typically identified with any particular group or religion; the figures are wearing coifs, which were common among all of the societal strata. Warriors, especially knights, are portrayed in Jewish manuscripts as both Jewish and Christian figures.[3]

Figure 3: Detail. BnF, MS héb. 9, fol. 104v

The figures with the swords, as the texts imply, were designed to arouse fear in the hearts of the viewers, as they might represent the Gentile inhabitants of the urban space, that is, they may reflect a fear of Christian neighbors. The manuscript was produced six years after the 1298 riots known as the Rindfleisch Massacres, so we may find in this micrography an echo of the pogrom’s outcome, especially as the text of Jeremiah and the micrography-forming verses tell of severe judgment and harsh prophecy; the emphasis is on the sword that brings death. As the masorator (the person copying the Masorah text) also created the image, even though someone else might have designed it, we see a tight connection between the text and the image it forms.

Figure 4: Detail. BnF, MS héb. 9, fol. 105r

The portrayal of the fighting men in manuscript BnF, MS héb. 9, fols 104v–105r (figs. 1-4) predates the earliest illuminated fencing manual, Leeds, MS I. 33 (fig. 5). Both manuscripts, which were produced in early the fourteenth-century German lands, reflect similar iconography of the fighting posture as well as of the gloves and garments,[4] as can be seen even in the details of the flared gloves, which are displayed with a line and round decorations along the edge of the cuff. Therefore, we may assume that both were copied from similar sources, perhaps model books for fighting. Of course, one principal difference is that in BnF, MS héb. 9 there is no close combat, as the characters are separated by the four lines of Masorah text between them.

Figure 5: Leeds, Royal Armouries, MS FECHT 1 (previously listed as I. 33), fols. 10v-11r, Germany ca. 1320

Similar iconography does not necessarily mean that one was copied from the other, but rather that a common prototype copy or other manuscripts of fencing treatises might have been circulating in the first quarter of the fourteenth century, especially as we find similar iconography in a Hebrew manuscript from around the same time and place. Such an evidence of an earlier iconographical model can be found in a Jewish prayer book, known as the Michael Mahzor, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Mich. 617, produced in German lands in 1258. An even earlier example is found in the Ambrosian Bible, Milan, Ambrosiana B. 32 Inf., fol. 34v, produced in Germany 1236-1238, displaying two fighting hybrids with sword and buckler. Thus, looking at Jewish illuminated manuscripts may shed more light on earlier models used for portraying fighting with this type of equipment.

[1] Franck Cinato and André Surprenant, Le livre de l’art du combat: Liber de arte dimicatoria (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2015); Jeffrey L.Forgeng, The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship Royal Armouries MS I.33 (Leeds: United Kingdom Royal Armouries Museum, 2018).

[2] ‛Micrography, also termed “masorah figurata,” has been adopted as the name for a unique Jewish art that creates the outlines of miniature ornamentation in manuscripts of the Bible and adorns their margins … It is generally fashioned from Masoretic Texts, which are lexical texts that are designed to preserve the biblical text and its precision’. Dalia-Ruth Halperin, ‛Micrography’, Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception 18 (2020), p. 1179.

[3] Sara Offenberg, Up in Arms: Images of Knights and the Divine Chariot in Esoteric Ashkenazi Manuscripts of the Middle Ages (Los Angeles: Cherub Press, 2019); Joseph Shatzmiller, ‛Fromme Juden und christlich-höfische Ideale im Mittelalter’, Arye-Maimon-Vortrag an der Universität Trier, 7. November 2007 (Trier: Trier Universität, 2008), 9–29.

[4] I should note that sometimes in Hebrew illuminated manuscripts the iconography is reversed from left to right in a mirror view, so a certain known guard may be flipped in BnF, MS héb. 9.

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