Art and Fencing: Ullmann’s “Saber Fencer”

Everybody knows that fencers are the most beautiful athletes: “Tough as leather, fast as greyhounds, hard as Krupp steel,” as a different period put it. No wonder then that some artists immortalized fencers as the epitome of human anatomy.

While there were a number of large-scale bronzes cast—the Fechterbrunnen in Breslau and the now lost pair of Épée Fencers from Karlsruhe, Germany, come to mind—most spelter, bronze, and (later) cast iron fencing statues were “trophy- sized,” measuring between 10 and 35 inches.

Among the Central European sculptors who tried their hand at this was the Austrian Theodor Ullmann, active from around 1915 until the 1930’s.Ullmann’s “Säbelfechter” probably dates from the mid- to late 1920’s. It was cast at the Gießerei (foundry) Arthur Rubenstein
in Vienna, Austria, whose mark “AR” is imprinted in the foot of the bronze statue.

The figure of a saber fencer executing a flank cut is raised on a coved black slate plinth and stands 10 1/2″ high.

There is an unknown quantity of these figures still in existence. One, now in the Museum of American Fencing, served as the trophy for the U.S.Metropolitan Division’s first saber championship.

This particular copy was purchased in 1931 at B. Altman’s on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. As an Austrian export, it is marked with “Made in Austria” and the name of the New York dealer.

Our copy lacks the saber blade, which is to be inserted into a hole in the hilt/hand.  It hows some damage to patina and plinth. We don’t really care, as we thoroughly enjoy the totalitarian austerity of the figure.

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