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In eighteenth century London, if you wanted to fence, you headed straight to the Angelo School of Arms. The salle, which was originally based above the pit door at Her Majesty’s Theatre at Haymarket, was moved to 13 Bond Street when the theatre burned in 1789. The Angelo family were a dynasty of fencing masters, famed all over Europe. Although most of the visitors to the salle were men, there were also many women.
Domenico Malevolti took the more romantic sounding Angelo as his surname and founded Angelo’s Salle. His son Henry, was great chums with the artist, Thomas Rowland, who regularly captured scenes at the fencing salle. In the unfinished print at the top of the page, Rowlandson sketched a woman fencing, exactly who she is, is unclear. The unfinished print is called Henry Angelo and Madame Cain Fencing, but when finished it was renamed Monsieur Renault and Madame Culleoni fencing in Angelo’s Academy. In time, if I find out more about these famed swordswomen, I will edit this post.
Monsieur Renault and Madame Culleoni Fencing in Angelo’s Academy
Surrounding the fencers is a crowd of regular visitors to the salle. Angelo is the man dressed all in white with his foil at his side, watching the fight unfurl, no doubt noticing the male fencer’s fairly short lunge. Madame has successfully parried the attack in sixte, but where is she going to hit? Coulee down the blade and hit in the middle of the chest? Drop and turn the wrist to hit low under the swordarm? Disengage and aim for the stomach or coupe to the heart? She has so many options and the upper hand.
Rowlandson also painted the famous female fencer from Rome, Madame Cigali, and another female fencer, Madame Kelu, a native of Italy.
Henry’s father Domenico Angelo published what is one of the great classic texts on fencing.
All picture – Yale Centre of British Art.
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Julia is a corporate lawyer by day, and a historical detective in her spare time. She researches the 18th century and the women history has overlooked. She competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, for fencing and was granted an OBE in 1999. Today, she lives outside Edinburgh. Follow the instagram link below for daily posts on inspirational and controversial women.