Insights from Historical Artwork

A close up from a highly detailed Medieval Italian painting by Aretino c. 1407-08, depicting the Venetian fleet defeating Emperor Barbarossa’s army off Punte Salvao. This fascinating shipboard battle reveals considerable information. A variety of helmets from sallets to conical to open face burgonets. The main swords are very short thrusting blades like the Italian coutello. One lochaber style axe is also being wielded. Several shield forms are visible from large siege-style winged and clipped forms to medium round ones (which appear to be rimmed in either leather or metal). Note the position of shields pulled up close to the jaw. Several shields show a sort of square "patch" on them which may or may not be part of a heraldic device. Most interesting however is the range of thrusting attacks being employed to the face. One German figure top right makes such an attack. An Italian soldier on the second row right executes a straight arm thrust to the face with a lunge-like move, another on the bottom right makes a nearly identical move with even more forward extension (a classic "renaissance rapier attack" …more than 150 years before the fighting style of the weapon is assumed to have come into wide use). A painting such as this would have taken considerable time and monetary backing, and thus would have been viewed and reviewed by many people prior to its finish, the details would thus be quite accurate even if the image itself was "approximate" rather than eyewitness.

VenetianfleetdefeatsEmprBarbarossaoffPunteSalvao140708byAretino.JPG (102951 bytes)



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