The sixteenth century saw a proliferation of fencing treatises written and published in the Italian peninsula. Some masters and styles have long been well known to fencing historians and modern historical fencers.
Other masters, although perhaps influential in their time, remain less well studied.
This is the case for two Florentine authors: Francesco di Sandro Altoni, whose manuscript is dated to circa 1540, and Marco Docciolini, whose work was published in 1601.
Altoni’s dedication indicates he was fencing master to the Second Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’Medici, from the latter’s boyhood. Docciolini’s patronage is less clear, but records of a portrait by the prominent painter Santi di Tito, suggest that he too enjoyed a degree of status and success.
Despite the sixty years between these treatises, a clear continuity of style and structure supports the existence of a putative “Florentine” school, no less illustrious than the better-known contemporary school of Bologna.
With this article, we hope to increase awareness of an important but rarely studied school of fencing, ahead of the future publication of Docciolini’s treatise in full English translation.
The article itself addresses combat with two swords, another topic that is under-explored, and about which there are often misconceptions. In actuality, combat with two swords holds a relatively privileged position in the systems of Altoni and Docciolini, as the first discipline to be taught after the sword alone.
It is therefore the authors’ hope that this article will provide an interesting and sufficiently representative insight, both into the Florentine school, and to the discipline of combat with two swords itself.
Translation by Piermarco Terminiello and Steven Reich