Artifact Corner: Episode 21 – Fencing Foil

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we are going to be looking at a very neat object. This is a fencing foil. A fencing foil is a thin, flexible blade that narrows into a blunt tip. This foil is steal with a wooden handle that’s wrapped in twine, and a steal guard. This foil is likely French, and probably early 19th century. In the past a fencing foil was used in place of a sword, to master the art swordsmanship.
So, let’s take a look at fencing. Fencing schools date back to the 11th century. The oldest surviving book of Western swordsmanship dates to around 1300. During the Renaissance, the thriving center for the fencing arts was in Italy. Italian master Fiori de’l Liberi wrote a manual for fencing or swordsmanship in the early 1400’s. This is a passage from his work, as translated by Pisani Dosssi:
“My, friend, if you want to know the practice of the weapons, bring with you all that this book teaches.
Be audacious in the attack and let your soul not be old. Have no fear in your mind; be on guard, you can make it………..
If you don’t have audacity of heart, all else is missing. Audacity, such virtue is what this art is all about.”
In the 18th Century, the Italian school was still the most highly prized in terms of education, but it’s teachings were slowly being modified upon by the French school. The French School of fencing emphasized that all actions are made with minimum force to the fencer, focusing more on the exact positioning of the body and the blade. The larger flourishing movements of the Italian school were considered superfluous, and a waste of energy. Our foil is most likely French, and comes from the time period when the French school of fencing was at its height.
Our foil is intact and in quite good condition given it’s age, and the hard life that most foils have. This piece, like all striking weapons was used, and while it did not receive the same abuse as say a sword would, it still took blows. We thank you so much for spending time with us this year, and hope you’ve enjoyed our videos. This is going to be our last video of 2020. We will be taking a break for the next two weeks for the upcoming holidays. We wish you all a wonderful Holiday season, and we will see you again in 2021! Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,