Friday, 10 August 2018

The 1891 Fencing Exhibition in Trieste

I present to you here a translation of an article entitled "The Fencing Exhibition in Trieste", published on the 18th January 1891 in the Milanese magazine Rivista Illustrata Settimanale. As the title implies, the article details a fencing exhibition held at the hall of the Trieste Music Society.

The Radaellian maestro Poggio Vannucchi featured at the event, but more interestingly there was an exhibition bout between two fencers equipped with an Arista model spada. Arista first wrote about this unique weapon of his back in 1888, and the author of this article states that there had been a lot of talk about this weapon. The author correctly predicts, however, that it will not catch on and gives a couple of reasons he believes this.

So without further ado, here is the article in its entirety:
"The fencing exhibition at the Music Society is a peculiarity of Trieste. This tireless and strong worker, who amasses in its immense warehouses loads of hundreds of ships, who rings out its powerful arsenals of thousands of workers, who from morning to night witnesses the spectacle of the largest and most obstinate activity, Trieste always finds in its inexhaustible energy an impulse towards all that is the finest manifestation of social life.
Thus, for example, that complex of exercises which require strength and skill and are wreathed with a halo of elegance, all this, in a word, belongs to sport, which finds numerous and passionate enthusiasts in our city. First in line we have our strong Gymnastics, which spreads its activity in every field there is to increase strength and courage in the youth; we have numerous nautical clubs, two very active velocipedist associations, an elegant equestrian society, and a flourishing hunting circle; we have one of the most sophisticated societies in the country, in which the most noble art of fencing finds intelligent and tireless adoration.
The fencing society frequently opens its halls for shows, pools, and exhibitions; this time, with great thought, the diligent management requested and obtained by the courtesy of the Music Society the vast and beautiful hall of this association and offers to members of the two societies a perfectly successful show.
The honours of hosting had been done with exquisite kindness by the two managements; the audience, very numerous, presented the note of beauty and elegance with a splendid gathering of gentlemen and ladies, the note of intelligence in the matter with the people of the best of our fencing amateurs. We have also had the pleasure last night of shaking the hand of that formidable champion of the Neapolitan school that is Enrico Casella. The smarra was held with the grace and courtesy of a perfect gentleman by the vice-president of the fencing society, Mr. Emanuele Coen.
First to present themselves on the wide platform erected in the middle of the hall were maestro Garagnani and his young student M. Ascoli.
Greeted by lively applause, the maestro presented the young man in a sword lesson, which did justice to displaying both the excellent teaching method of one and the rare aptitudes of the other.
A sabre bout followed between the gentlemen Giuseppe Comas and Giuseppe Janesich. The former of a fully southern mobility, fast and lively in the attack, the latter firmly planted on guard, prompt and strong in the riposte.
A young fencer, full of promise, from his elegant and correct pose, Mr. Umberto Posar, was pitted in the sword against Mr. I. Salom, who also did his best. So much so that the bout received much applause.
We come now to one of the most important points of the program: the sword bout between the maestri Mari and Garagnani.
Mari is a fencer equipped with beautiful movements; tall, well planted on guard, he displayed beautiful straight thrusts on the opponent’s invitations. Maestro Garagnani asserted his profound knowledge of the art which, together with rapid and strong execution, emerged particularly in the parries and ripostes. The audience followed the beautiful bout with the most vivid interest and saluted the two maestri with prolonged applause.
After a musical piece, performed as an interlude, the second part commenced with a sword bout between Mr. N. Cozzi, equipped with extraordinary aptitudes and particularly a powerful leap, and Mr. Giuseppe Rovis, an elegant and correct fencer.
There was great applause. There was also great applause for the bout between Count. F. Sordina, a strong sabre fencer who has remarkable physical advantages, and Mr. Giuseppe Ianesich whom we spoke of earlier.
Welcomed with thunderous applause, the maestri Vannucchi and Angelini appeared on the piste.
Vannucchi is a fencer of marvellous speed, lively in the attack, sure in the riposte; in a word: a strong blade. Our Angelini fully confirmed his reputation as a skilful fencer, equipped with uncommon flexibility which allows him to lunge an absolutely surprising distance. The bout, performed by both with valour equal to the cavalry, was a great success.
Another musical interlude and then a bout by the gentlemen Ventura and Garavini with a unique weapon, the Arista model.
The unique weapon is a fencing application of the Verdian motto: Let’s turn to the past! It is a return to the past for technique and also for the form of the weapon, which resembles one of those powerful rapiers that Dante da Castiglione boldly wielded.
Much has been said in fencing circles, much was written in newspapers interested in this game regarding this unique weapon.
We are too great admirers of Salvatore Arista’s fencing ability to be able to declare ourselves absolutely adverse to a weapon that he finds good. However on the other hand we are too great friends of the truth to admit that with the unique weapon one can always do everything that one can do with the sword. It is also very natural, for physical reasons; in fact a flat blade will never offer that contact which the edges of a rectangular blade present, nor with this can one do the legamenti and changes as with a foil blade. Arista’s exceptionally powerful hand will certainly be able to overcome many of these difficulties; but will we find many who don’t know how to and cannot do the same?
That is the question; and since we do not hesitate to answer it in the negative sense, it seems to us that for this reason alone the unique weapon will not be able to become a weapon in general use.
In any case the audience’s interest was excited and the bout between the gentlemen Ventura and Garavini was met very favourably. Mainly they did sabre play, and both showed to be remarkably strong fencers. Ventura possesses firm fencing knowledge which manifests itself in a great variety of play and which makes a formidable fencer; he parries well and ripostes better. Garavini has a plastic and correct guard, a sudden energy and a powerful hand and arm which render his attacks difficult to mend.
The bout was greatly applauded. Mr. N. Cozzi was then introduced again onto the piste, measuring himself with the sword against the young student Mr. Minas, a fencer of magnificent disposition, agile and powerful, who promises to become an excellent blade.
The last two numbers of the program were of great interest.
Greeted by a standing ovation, our two distinguished and pleasant maestri Angelini and Garagnani were introduced and they performed a sabre bout displaying such energy and speed to truly arouse admiration. The blows were fast, sure, pressing, the parries solid and robust, the ripostes rapid.
We noted a stupendous traversone in tempo and a powerful arrest given by maestro Angelini; we admired a traversone thrown by maestro Garagnani with great speed, also carrying the sabre in a marvellous manner; also a beautiful thrust over.
At the conclusion of this bout the audience prolonged their applause in such a way that the two talented maestri had to present themselves again onto the piste and exchange a final blow.
To conclude the show was a beautiful and applaudable sabre bout between the maestri Vannucchi and Mari, who once again deployed all their beautiful fencing talents.
Mari, sturdy and plastic in his guard, struck with beautiful rising blows; Vannucchi, who carries the sabre in an astonishing way, performed the most difficult blows, passing, for example, from parry second, after having quickly signalled a feint to the face, to strike a traversone.
The two talented maestri may be certain of having left their best impression on the audience; and at the friendly banquet that followed the exhibition the bond of affection which united them with our fencers was tightened even more.
The banquet took place in a hall on the first floor of Restaurant Centrale; the champagne was raised in a warm toast to the three distinguished guests, Casella, Mari, and Vannucchi, to the Management of the Fencing Society, and to the prosperous future of the Society.
It was a truly friendly convention, full of life and vivacity; a pleasant and grateful memory for those who attended.

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