A Bronze Cannon for Light Field or Ceremonial Use, dated 1574

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Item ref: 3418

  • South Germany
  • Bronze
  • 138 cm / 54.3 in


Private collection, Europe

Cast in relief, in the South German fashion exemplified by Lienhart Peringer of Landshut and Gregor and Hans Christof Löffler of Innsbruck
The pleasing proportions of this barrel, together with its small but meaningful bore size indicate that it may have been used as a field piece as much as for firing ceremonial salutes. As such, it is what in the later 17th century was referred to as an ‘amusette’, although hardly the ‘plaything’ of the literal translation.
In terms of this barrel’s functional and decorative designs, the distinctive construction of the muzzle and breech, together with the cascable button on its elongated spool-like neck, each conform to a style exemplified by surviving barrels cast by Lienhardt Peringer. He had worked in the Bavarian town of Landshut, in the service of the Dukes of Lower Bavaria from 1547-65. Among his works Peringer had produced an alphabetically referenced series of falconet barrels made for Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria and generally comparable to the barrel under discussion. Of this alphabetic series at least fourteen are preserved dispersed among various institutional collections. One of these, ‘K’, dated 1566, is in the Musée d’Art et d’Industrie, St. Etienne (see Heinrich Müller, Deutsche Bronzegeschützrohre 1400-1750, Berlin 1968, pp.112-3, figs. 115-6).
Also sharing the characteristics referred to above are examples of barrels cast by the renowned Löffler brothers Gregor and Hans Christof of Innsbruck (respectively b. circa 1490-1565 and 1526-1597). A falconet cast by Gregor (considered to be among the most important 16th century German cannon founders) for the Bishop of Augsburg in about 1550 compares closely with the present smaller barrel, as does another, cast slightly later by either of the brothers in the third quarter of the 16th century (op. cit. pp. 112-3, figs. 115-6 and pp. 50-1, figs. 28-9). The latter example additionally displays a two-part acanthus leaf calyx on the cascable face which is very close to the corresponding feature on the present barrel.
There is no doubt that the present barrel was cast in a foundry within the circle of influence of either of these three leading makers, and conceivably even by one of these in person. Regrettably the abbreviated inscription which is cast on a scroll over the reinforce section of the barrel proves enigmatic. While it is possible to decode the probable lesser words, no appropriately lettered name is linked to the coat-of-arms beneath. Given the very close proximity of the inscription to the arms it seems more likely that the inscription will refer to the owner of these arms, or to his motto, rather than to the bronze founder.