If the individuals living during the Victorian era were anything, they were enthusiastic in their pursuits. Centuries of Renaissance advancement in art, architecture, and philosophy gave birth to a European culture that was unlike anything that came before; focused both on the bright future towards which they marched and on the rich history they left behind. As a result, much of European art during that period – whether it be paintings, statuary, or other forms of expression – was inspired by earlier works and sources. For instance, many Renaissance (and later Victorian) paintings were based on stories from the Bible or elsewhere in antiquity. Shakespeare remained wildly popular in theaters for centuries. And of course, the supposed romantic and chivalrous Middle Ages was a source of especial interest.
It was due to this seeking in the Middle Ages for inspiration that led to a resurgence of interest in all things Medieval. Many nobles, wealthy merchants, and other individuals with the wealth to pursue their interests sought to decorate their homes with “artifacts” from a bygone era. Unfortunately for those would be collectors the interest in owning true weapons and armor from the past outstripped the availability of said artifacts. And so, out of this interest grew a new industry in the production of replica Medieval weapons and armor.
Swords, daggers, shields and armor of medieval design were all reproduced using Renaissance techniques and provided to collectors across Europe. These articles, as they were intended to be used for display purposes, were sometimes not heat treated, and were constructed primary to visually represent the swords on which they were based. For this reason an acid wash was frequently given to “age” the appearance, giving the impression the weapon was considerably older than it actually was. While some reproducers of this era certainly misrepresented their work as being original to the 13th or 14th centuries, in many cases the buyer knew what they were purchasing – and the reproductions were very often fine weapons in their own right, benefiting from the advanced knowledge and techniques of the 19th century smiths who created them.
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