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Courtly hunting hanger of King Ludwig I. of Bavaria
Courtly hunting hanger of King Ludwig I. of Bavaria
Courtly hunting hanger of King Ludwig I. of Bavaria
Courtly hunting hanger of King Ludwig I. of Bavaria Courtly hunting hanger of King Ludwig I. of Bavaria Courtly hunting hanger of King Ludwig I. of Bavaria

A fine hunting hanger of King Ludwig I. of Bavaria (1786 – 1868) or a high ranking member of his court, Solingen 1825 - 1848.
Overall length: 76 cm.
Blade length: 64 cm.
Signature of a bladesmith and in Solingen.

Provenance
I. Royal House of Bavaria.
II. A Bavarian noble familiy.
sold

Summary
This hunting hanger either belonged to King Ludwig I. of Bavaria himself or to a high ranking member of his court. As a flamboyantly crafted piece it shall not be confused with the numerous simple hangers that have survived the centuries and were worn also by hunt servants, forest officers, as part of the civilian fashion or even as a side arm for military use. It is a stroke of luck that the present hunting weapon is in almost flawless condition.

Description
The blade is strong and rigid, it has a wide fuller running the entire length. Holding the hanger for delivering a thrust the leading edge is sharp while the rear one is kept blunt like a ricasso. This feature stands for the use at hunting since the blade was feasible for administering the coup de grace while it lowers the risk of injury for the hounds at the same time. When they locked jaws and tried to hold a wild animal it could happen that they touched the upper edge of the blade with their paws searching for foothold when the hunter was thrusting. Thus a double edged blade would have been a source of injury.

The point is acute at the top but the edges are tapering in a rather flat angle. Also this design is typical for hunting hangers since they also served to defend against a wounded wild boar attacking the hunter. Holding the blade towards the animal the point should not stuck within the chest at a bone but slide off instead and penetrate the heart. Still being extremely dangerous the risk of injury or death for the hunter would have been even greater using an acutely pointed hunting hanger. [...]

On the blade you can find several trophies engraved and fire gilded. They contrast the intense blueing of the surface. Being covered by parts of the hilt there is the signature of a bladesmith at the base and on the other side the inscription in Solingen. The cross shaped hilt is typical for hunting hangers. It is of fire gilded brass, the grip scales made of horn. Its cross guards are swinging out slightly in a vertical S shape and thicken like a drop towards their ends. Two finely chiselled leaves and a small blossom are shown on the quillon block and on the lower part of the grip there is a boar’s head surrounded by an oval and with a spear and a hunting hanger depicted in the background. Elaborately the lustrous gilded areas like the weapons, the oval shape and larger areas of the grip contrast those parts that appear matt like the structure of the leaves and the boars head. Below the quillon block you can find a down-turned shell, whose ridges alternate being left blank and engraved with leaves. The grip scales are attached by rivets that are adorned with a blossom ornament. At the side the grip scales show an ornament in the shape of an engraved ribbon with enclosed rhombs, which is repeated at the locket of the scabbard.

The latter is also of brass and gilded. On the frog stud the monogram of the Bavarian King Ludwig I. (1786 – 1868) is finely chiselled, also playing with the contrast between lustrous gilding of the letters, crown and enclosure to the matt background. There is an opening for the insertion of cutlery, which is now missing.

As a counterpart to the locket serves the chape that also repeats the ribbon with rhombs. Below lies centrally a group of trophies within an oval on a stippled ground and surrounded by a blank shiny area. Above there is a leave ornament enclosing a diamond shape.

It is extremely rare that the original harness is still preserved and in such a good condition. Made of leather there is a textile attached to the front which shows a broad golden ribbon in the centre, which is enclosed by two narrower ones in silver at the edges. Applied to the blued iron sheet of the belt buckle the royal crown attracts attention and is further accentuated by the fire gilded pearled rim that decorates the buckle’s boundaries.[...]

Background
The hunting hanger appeared as a functional weapon at the beginning of the 17th century, developing from the hunting sword.1) However it would be a rather limited perception to reduce its use to thrusting deers, like the German term Hirschfänger (deer killer) might suggest. There was a great variety of purposes for this weapon in the course of time. Referring to the deer in finding the term Hirschfänger might have been motivated by the precious image of this animal. Furthermore the deer was the main objective of the par force hunt. This type of hunt was especially sumptuous and therefore reserved for the high nobility. According to our present-day perception of animal-welfare this practice seems extremely cruel and not sportsmanlike.

Par force, meaning by pressure, a wild animal was chased by packs of hounds until it was exhausted. The host of the hunting party, mostly a duke, a prince or a king and his guests initially attended the spectacle as an audience. When the scared deer was completely distressed the host or a high ranking guest killed the animal using a hunting hanger.

In order to prepare and perform a par force hunt a tremendous effort was necessary, like a lot of hunt servants, horses, hounds and subsidiaries. Among the most important attendants was the so called piqueur, a man well educated in hunting and riding. He also had to be able to play the hunting horn perfectly since the communication with the hunting party was conducted by determined signals.

In arranging the hunt the leading piqueur began to search the track of a pride of deers that had a stately animal being adequate for the prince according to size and age. Having accomplished this he marked the direction in which the animals escaped by folding branches. Three or four piqueurs were under his command, who leaded 80 to 100 hounds, followed by 60 to 70 horsemen.

Then the deer was separated from his pack and chased to a clearing. It was necessary that the hounds were extremely well trained since they needed to stop attacking the deer at the right moment without letting escape it. It was the piqueur’s duty to communicate to the prince by using his horn whether the animal was a well-known one or a piece found by chance. He also announced that everything was ready for the hunt to begin. Afterwards the chase began and the packs of hounds were set on the deer. Of particular importance was the leading dog, which had to chase the animal for hours and needed to direct it to the place where the hunting party was waiting. Before the prince and his guests had travelled from the hunting seat to this place using special forest aisles the servants had prepared only for this purpose.

The horseman who was the first of the group in cutting the deer off and stopping it with the packs of hounds gained a special honour. Subsequently the prince or a high ranking guest he chose approached the animal and killed it by thrusting the hunting hanger into its heart. Was the deer still able to defend itself a piqueur first cut from behind the sinews of the hind legs, so it broke down unable to move.

A signal of the horn marked the end of the hunt and servants began breaking open the deer. As a trophy the leading piqueur handed the right foreleg over to the prince. The remaining legs he gave as presents of honour to guests of the hunting party. Subsequently the dogs received their remuneration. After the meat had been set aside for the feast of the hunting party the coat was spread out the other way round and a mixture of entrails, blood and bread splayed over it. Then the packs of hounds dashed at it.2)

Due to the large number of hunting hangers in different qualities that have survived the centuries it is obvious that not all of them could have been used at the noble par force hunt. In the range of hunting this weapon also served to kill boars, elks and chamoises, especially when an animal was not deadly shot and only injured. When this happened with a boar it could become really dangerous for the hunter since these animals often attacked him.

In this case the hunter needed to hold the hunting hanger towards the approaching boar and had to place it directly between the bladebones in order to penetrate the heart. Without the help of hounds holding the animal this was difficult and extremely risky.

Besides this practical value the hunting hanger also served a symbolic function. It was given to the educated huntsman and therefore was seen as a sign of honour. Notwithstanding hunting hangers were used as a fashionable accessory of the civilian dress as early as in the 18th century, a time when people also wore court swords without the intention of ever using them. Of course this practice displeased hunters very much.

But also as a sidearm civilians used the hunting hanger which led to the disapproval of huntsmen, who perceived their sign of honour being damaged – even though also hunters wore their hangers as a weapon for self defense against humans, too.

In the course of time especially in the 19th century it became common practice to distribute hunting hangers to hunt and forest servants, who had nothing to do with hunting at all. According to their rank the officials received a different model, which design and appearance was standardized and defined by the authorities.

A further source for the large amount of hunting hangers is the military, who developed side arms looking closely similar. As an example one can refer to the Prussian Jäger-Corps recruited from forest servants back in 1744. At the beginning these soldiers used their own hunting hangers but in the seven year war they were equipped with the Feldjägerhirschfänger a standardised weapon that is in no way related to hunting.3)

Notes
1) Bäumel, J. (1992): Jagdblankwaffen in der kurfürstlich-sächsischen Rüstkammer, p. 50, in: Museum Schloß Moritzburg: Vom Jagen.
2) Quaas, G. (2002): Hofjagd, pp. 14.
3) Seifert, G. (1973): Der Hirschfänger, everything.

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© 2012 Lennart Viebahn | Impressum

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