With information, insight and references graciously offered by author and scholar Chris Holzman, we are proud to offer our own Victorian era “Smarra”.
The term “smarra” was used to refer to a stiffer and heavier foil that was generally used for taking lessons from an instructor, while the “fioretto” or foil was used for bouting.
The hilt style presented here is representative of the weapons found in what is now southern Italy, particularly Naples and Sicily from the 18th century to the early 20th century, and particularly close to the weapons illustrated in Rosaroll & Grisetti (1803) and Parise’s (1884) books, as well as the Serafino & Gnutti (1904) fencing equipment catalog.
While the French and much of the rest of Europe were using small swords, the Italians, especially in the south, carried on using longer blades, and those were often double edged and sometimes (though rarely) used to cut. Rosaroll and Grisetti (1803) and Enrichetti (1871) both tell us that while the French of their time preferred a blade length of not more than 3 palmi (an old Italian measurement that in this case probably means about 10″) in length, the southern Italians preferred blades of 4 palmi in length. Rosaroll and Grisetti recommend blades of 3.5 palmi to 3.66 palmi in length. Our blade, at 38″ from the cup (40″ from the crossbar) is quite close to Rosaroll and Grisetti’s recommendation. The combat blades were hexagonal or diamond cross section, while the practice blades tended to be rectangular.
The balance point of 9 cm on the version with the knuckle bow and 10 cm on the version without is very close to the traditionally recommended but somewhat vague “4 fingers from the guard” recommended by R&G and Parise.
The end result is a practice weapon with a long blade that is stiff but not brutal, but with good distribution of flex through the second half of the blade, a weapon that is heavy enough to have presence in the hand without being quickly tiring, but that balances far enough forward to feel real, without being ponderous. This is a weapon appropriate for training in Italian fencing from the 18th to early 20th century.