Tuesday 31 May 2022

How did a Horribly Over-restored Teutonic Order Medieval Axe End up Being Sold in UK?


           Restored axe recently sold on consignment in London       
The online advertising of this battle axe sold in a Mayfair auction last month caught my eye, first its appallingly obtrusive and ugly "restoration" (see the post on this "London Businessman Restoration" above). The second is its provenance, mentioning a site I have been professionally involved with: 

LOT 0350
Estimate GBP (£) 200 - 300 [...] Sold for (Inc. bp): £546

A Mazovian or Teutonic Order war axe, hand-forged with rectangular-section socket and expanding bearded blade; a maker's mark to one side of the blade and an openwork three-lobed flower tapering towards the blade; four notches on the upper part of the socket. 7 in. (805 grams, 17.8 cm). Very fine condition, professionally cleaned, conserved and restored. [No Reserve]

Property of a London businessman, from his grandfather's collection formed after World War II; thence by descent 1972.

See Glosek, M., Późnośredniowieczna broń obuchowa w zbiorach polskich, Warszawa-Łódź, 1996, pls.VII-VIII, especially VIII lett.C.

This typology of axes (type Ig of the Glosek classification) was in use throughout Europe in the 13th-14th centuries. This axe is similar to one excavated during an archaeological survey of the castle at Czersk, dated to the 13th-14th century A.D. Close parallels have also been found in Elbląg, a famous commandery of the Teutonic Order from 1237 to 1454 A.D. The stronghold served as a seat of the Masters of the Teutonic Order.

Note the narrow size of the socket for the haft in the restoration. There is no mention of any accompanying documentation outlining the details of the conservation treatment before restoration, or documenting what actually is underneath all that textured gap-fill. The removal of archaeological artefacts connected with the Teutonic Knights from the Polish People's  Republic even "after the War" required a permit, so how did this grandfather get his hands on this? If it was in the grandfather's collection by some time after 1945, but before 1972, when, and why, was it restored using the same methods as were applied in the past few months or so to the Kettlewell with Starbotton ​axes discussed here? Or was this done earlier, which is why the texturing is done so appallingly badly? The exhibiting of this item online raises a number of questions that the anonymous consigner should be encouraged to answer. Like, what actually is under that heavy restoration? 

Also at a time when the eastern part of Europe is being ripped apart by a destructive war of domination, one questions the motives of anyone bidding to collect items connected with the Teutonic Order, given its history of brutality in the area in precisely the 13th-14th centuries. What fantasies are projected by collecting precisely weapons of this group?  

The cited archaeologist's name is Głosek not Glosek (pronounced differently).

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