Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Trattato teorico-pratico di scherma della sciabola by Federico Cesarano

In the past few months I have had an increasing interest in non-Radaellian sabre treatises published around Radaelli's time. The main reason for this is that I have been trying to get a better contextual idea of what sabre fencing looked like in Italy before Radaelli and Parise's methods became so dominant. The scans that I am providing today are of one such treatise from 1874. You may view and download them here:


Although this text was published in Milan, it details the method of the Neapolitan maestro Federico Cesarano, who ran a fencing hall in Padua. He makes no effort to hide his Neapolitan pride, following in the footsteps of Rosaroll-Scorza and Grisetti by quoting Tasso every now and then, and stating that:
"Some peoples are favoured by nature through particular skill and agility in the useful art of defending oneself: the Italians are certainly among them, and of these the Neapolitans are recognised as more skilful in fencing both for their more natural disposition, and because in this part of Italy the noble art of fencing was always kept pure without ever hampering it with practices of foreign schools."
It makes sense then that the method he details in this text seems similar to that shown by Masaniello Parise 10 years later in his famous treatise. It is not unlikely that Cesarano studied under Annibale Parise at the Accademia Nazionale di Scherma in Naples, as he specifically recommends the Parise model mask for sabre fencing:
"Of this mask various models are made: without hesitation I prefer the model of Maestro Parise of Naples, which is all leather except for the mesh, which is always iron."
Cesarano prefers a (familiar) raised, extended guard of 3rd, which he says is "the most commonly used".

He also gives this interesting insight into measurements for typical fencing sabres of the time:
"The length of the blade varies from 86.8 to 89 cm and is calculated from the point to the heel; the width varies from 13 to 25 millimetres. The total weight of a fencing sabre is about 640 to 890 g."
The book also contains an appendix detailing some rules to be observed in the fencing hall, and a brief discussion of rules to be observed in a duel.

Lastly, I will provide here Gelli's brief entry on Cesarano from his Bibliografia General della Scherma:
"Federico Cesarano, born in Naples on the 18th June 1846, was a volunteer in the Garibaldini Hussars for the 1860 campaign; he then moved into the Lucca Light Cavalry, with which he made the campaign against Austria in 1866.
In 1868 he founded a Fencing and Gymnastics Club in Padua, of which his is still the Director.
As a fencer he has appeared in all the tournaments held in Italy, always bringing back the best prizes in works of art and gold medals.
Currently he also presides over the teaching of gymnastics in the municipal schools of Padua."
Special thanks to Biblioteca comunale centrale di Milano for providing the scans.

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