Spirit of the Charge
The Story:(Click on images to enlarge)
Andrea Ferrara’s Legacy
In the “Spirit of the Charge”, we glimpse a scene that chilled the blood of many a sassenach (outlander) – the Highland Charge. A howling mob of ragged, colorful, undisciplined, wild Jacobites brandishes some of the most vicious edged weaponry designed for the bloody business of hand-to-hand combat. White cockades adorn their bonnets demonstrating their allegiance to the Stuarts. With targes (shields) and broadswords in hand, the bagpipes scurling, the flag of St. Andrew fluttering, these men were more inclined to be fighting for their hatred of the English than support for their Bonnie Prince.
The three main basket hilt swords or claidheamh mor (claymore) in the scene were modeled after three originals in a private collection, which has been graciously made accessible to the artist for research. On the left is a late 17th century English-made basket hilt, plain, but well balanced and deadly. Below it is a claymore with a beautiful basket hilt made by Walter Allen of Stirling, Scotland about 1735. The panels of the hilt are made up of secret Jacobite symbols comprised of hearts, and oak and thistle leaves. On the far right, the Scotsman glaring over his targe raises an S-bar type of basket hilt made about 1720. The S-bar basket was a popular design; the S may have stood for Scotland, Stirling, or Stuart (take your pick.) The artist chose these three claymores because each original was marked “Andrea Ferrara”.
Who was Andrea Ferrara and why did Highland Scots affectionately refer to their swords by his name? Many believe he was an Italian master swordsmith working in the mid- to late-16th century. Others speculate he was from northern Spain or maybe Portugal. The name, which means “worker of iron”, appears on Highland as well as other European blades in various spellings (Fearera, Ferara, etc.).
Andrea Ferrara was legendary among the Highlanders. Some say James IV or V brought him to Scotland; others say he fled to Scotland after murdering his apprentice to keep his blade-making secrets safe. He supposedly kept a coiled sword blade in his hat, whipping it out to demonstrate its flexibility to the astonishment of his customers. Highland clansmen came to see the name as a mark of quality and invincibility. For almost 200 years after his time, German blade makers would ship spurious Ferrara-marked blades to Scotland. The Germans called these blades “Grösser Schötten (Great Scots)”. A 1785 dictionary of English slang states that many Highland sword blades carried his mark “whence an Andrea Ferrara has become the common name for the claymore”. To quote a line in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly Tales, “We’ll put in bail, my boy; old Andrew Ferrara shall lodge his security”.
The lower border is inspired by the center fuller of an old rusted dull sword blade. It displays a sample Andrea Ferrara mark flanked by St. Andrew crosses, the running wolf mark of the German sword-making centers of Passau or Solingen, and the artist’s signature. In the background of the charge is an array of crofter-made weapons: sickles, pikes, axes, and a simply nasty weapon called a holy-water-sprinkler – a pike with long thin pointy nails sticking out all around the wood shaft like a porcupine – crude, but effective.
Our portal to the past is an ancient Celtic brooch. As the charge breaches its borders, a Scottish deerhound lunges forward, entwined in a Celtic spirit of itself. The war dog races by a swordsman to its left, swinging an heirloom claidheamh dà làimh or “twa-handit swordis”, the long, thin blade bearing the running wolf mark of Passau. Ancient people believed there was magic in a circle, such as a ring of stones, a circular targe, or a round brooch. A highland witch might lay her brooch across some herbs and pluck them through the opening so to strengthen her potions. Might we peer through the center of such a brooch and be startled to see a Highland warrior glaring back?
(Any resemblance of the central figure to the artist is purely coincidental.)
Each giclée print is 18" x 15" (image size 14" x 11") on high-quality archival acid-free paper, numbered and signed by the artist. Prints are available in a limited edition of 200 from the original art.
Artist proofs are available with remarque, enhancement, signed and specially numbered by the artist, in limited editions of 10 from each original. Artist proofs are $500 each and available by phone order only.
Each print is shipped in acid-free archival packaging.
Printed by Heartland Printworks of Indianapolis, IN
The online image is purposely faded and watermarked to discourage online theft. The actual print is rich and vibrant with color and detail.
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