A Pair of Spanish Bronze Cannon Barrels, c. 1600

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Item ref: 2858

  • Spain
  • Bronze
  • 101.5 cm


The Duke of Lerma (b.1552 – d.1625)
Private collection, United Kingdom

Fine cast bronze cannon were always highly prized and were a mark of the taste and wealth of the person who commissioned them. This remarkable pair of barrels bears the arms of Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rosas, Duke of Lerma, a favourite of King Phillip III of Spain, and arms which can be found on the facade of the vast Ducal Palace he built between 1601 and 1610. This still stands in the town of Lerma, in the province of Burgos, in northern Spain between Santander and Madrid, and is now a most imposing hotel. A very fine gilt-bronze statue of Francisco, Duke of Lerma, dressed in late 16th century armour and kneeling in devotion, is in the Museo Nacional de Escultura, in Valladolid, Spain. These barrels appear to be identical, but in fact their gun founder made a subtle variation in their decoration which actually helps to tie them together as a pair. The muzzle and chase (forward part) of each barrels is the same, the muzzle having a robustly handsome moulding decorated with a series of raised bands, while immediately behind this is a band of oval cartouches contained by a narrow raised band, or astragal. At the rear end of the chase is another astragal, ahead of which is a band of formalised palm leaves and behind it a band of guilloche ornament. The dolphins on the second reinforce are of the same naturalistic form, but behind these on one barrel is band of palm leaves while on the other is a band of curved peaked bands resembling a coronet, each peak marked by a trefoil.

A shield on each first reinforce contains the arms of the Duke of Lerma beneath a ducal coronet, and behind these are palm leave and coronet-form bands in the reverse order to those on the second reinforce. Behind a plain vent field containing the touch hole or vent the very handsomely formed cascables have elegantly extended trumpet-form buttons.