“In both of these parries, however, the sabre is held a little forward of the prescribed position for the 2nd movement of the molinello.”What exactly is “a little forward”? First let us look at how Del Frate describes the second movements of the molinelli to the head.
To the head from the left:
Two — bending the arm the blade is lowered with the point towards the ground, and the sabre is brought alongside the left flank, the edge turned to the left, the grip to the left and at the height of the head, about 20 centimetres ahead; the arm at the height and in the direction of the forehead; the body balanced as in the guard position (fig. 16).To the head from the right:
Two — raising and bending the arm the blade is lowered with the point towards the ground, and the sabre is brought alongside the right flank with the edge turned to the right, the grip about a palm away from the right temple, such that one's gaze passes between the forearm and the blade, the weight of the body equally distributed on the legs (fig. 19).And here are the plates showing both parries and their respective second movements of the molinelli:
Although it is unfortunate that the plates for the parries of 1st and 7th show a different perspective to that of their respective second movements of the molinelli, there does not seem to be much of an obvious difference between the two. In the plate showing the parry of 1st it almost appears that the sabre is slightly shorter than in the other plates. This could either be an error on the part of the illustrator, or that the tip of the sabre is pointing slightly more forward (or back), which would not entirely disagree with what Del Frate says.
These plates indicate that Del Frate’s idea of “a little forward” is perhaps no more than a couple of centimetres. Similarly we see the same depiction of parry of 1st in his 1868 manual:
|"Position of Parry of 1st"|
|"Position of the second movement for the molinello to the head from the left"|
Despite the fact that the plates are virtually identical in their depictions (albeit with Fig. 19 incorrectly showing the fencer to be forward-weighted), the description in the 1868 text is slightly different:
“The hand a little higher than the head and about one palm [20 - 25 cm] away, the tip pointing to the ground ahead one palm from the hand, and the edge to the left.”This brings the point ahead of the grip such that the sabre does not point directly down as it may appear on the plates. Regardless of the reason as to why this was not mentioned in the 1876 text, Del Frate makes no mention in this text to the parry being any further forward than is previously suggested, as the description of the parry does not refer to the second movement of the molinello to the head in this case.
The same can be found in both the 1873 and 1885 editions of the Ministry of War’s cavalry manual Regolamento di esercizi e di evoluzioni per la cavalleria, which contains a distilled version of Radaelli’s system for use in the cavalry. Here we see that the illustration is nearly identical to that seen in Del Frate’s 1868 text, and the description is not far off either:
“To execute parry of first the cavalryman is placed in the position of second or point in line, and then at the command:As for parry of 7th, in the 1868 text Del Frate does still relate it to the second movement of the molinello to the head from the right:
Raising the arm and bringing the hand to the left at the height of the forehead, one takes the following position:
The hand a little higher than the head and about one palm away, the point of the sabre turned towards the ground, one palm ahead of the hand, edge to the left (fig. 22).”
“... raising the right hand one will take the position very similar to the second movement of the molinello to the head from the right, with the difference that the grip stops about four fingers in front of the head, with the blade nearly parallel to the flank."Compared to his description of the second movement of the molinello to the head from the right in the same text:
“The point of the sabre is dropped perpendicularly towards the ground raising the hand, bringing it a little higher than the head, and four fingers from the right temple so that the sabre comes to be behind the right shoulder with the edge turned to the right, and the point distant as little as possible from the body, at the same time looking between the forearm and the sabre.”Parry of 7th as described in this text only ends up being 4 fingers in front of the head as opposed to 4 fingers from the temple in the second movement of the molinello, amounting to merely a few centimetres of difference between the two. Nowhere else in his 1868 text does Del Frate state that a parry is held any further forward than one would assume by reading the text, and even in the cases previously mentioned.
Giordano Rossi (a Radaellian) shows the parries in the same manner as in Del Frate’s 1876 text, except he also shows the distance between the head and the hand in parry of 1st from the side:
|Left: "Fig. 38. Parry of 1st."|
Right: "Fig. 39. Parry of 7th."
Rossi also states that for the parries of 1st and 7th the grip and the sabre are “a little forward” of the prescribed position for the 2nd movement of the molinelli, yet just like Del Frate, this is not referring to the above illustrations of the parries.
In his 1915 treatise Poggio Vannucchi (another Radaellian) gives two forms of parry of first:
"Parry of angled 1st: blade perpendicular to the ground and to the left of the body, looking under the forearm with the hand in 1st above the head and about 20 centimetres in front of the forehead, forearm bent to form a right angle with the sabre, edge to the left.His hand positions are unique to his system, as he gives one for each of the 9 parries, including also separate versions for "angled 1st" and "1st in line":
Parry of 1st in line: arm extended at the height of the shoulder, edge obliquely to the left, the point a little lower than the hand."
"The position of 1st in line, back of the hand to the left, edge diagonally up to the left. Position of angled 1st, back of the hand turned to the rear, the point of the sabre perpendicular to the ground, edge to the left."
So what is "a little forward" then? Due to the consistency shown in all the images, particularly those for parry of 1st, it seems one can only conclude that the parries are no more than a few centimetres forward from the 2nd movements of the molinelli to the head. The likeliest explanation in my view is that Del Frate wanted to make sure that fencers were not placing the sabre too close to their bodies when performing the parries, such that they place themselves at risk of having their parry collapse on the opponent's blow and getting hit in the process. When performing the molinelli it is easier for this mistake to occur as the sabre is drawn further back after the 2nd movement, thus a fencer may end up with their sabre closer than is ideal for a parry when performing the 2nd movement of either molinello.