This cranequin is most remarkable for both its outer and hidden (!) decoration; the presence of the latter, in places normally not accessible, denotes, together with the unusually fine workmanship, that this most certainly was a MASTERPIECE presented to the guild commision in order to get access to the Nuremberg guild of cranequin makers (Windenmacher
It is preserved complete save the missing belt hook.
It is in my friend's fine collection which you have come to know quite well by now.
The surfaces of both the ratched bar and the gear box are engraved, chiseled, carved and pierced profusely, exhausting almost the full range of characteristic Late Gothic and Early Renaissance ornaments:
foliage terminating in punched Late-Gothic pediculated trefoils and cinquefoils (gestielte Drei- und Fünfpässe), zoomorphic details like a stylized serpent on the ratched bar, and the basis of one of the gear box rivets carved like an animal's head with punched eyes, Gothic tracery, roped friezes (Schnürlbänder) etc.
The underside of the ratched bar is engraved with a stylized hand beneath the claw; this is a characteristcally magic medieval symbol to fend off evil, a so called apotropaion
. This makes it the only cranequin I have seen to feature any decoration on the underside!
Its upper side is struck in front of the claw with a maker's mark, two crossed arrows, which is well known as that of an obviously rather prolific Nuremberg workshop which seemingly mostly manufactured cranequins many of which are dated. Dated specimens of their cranequins recorded by the author range from 1532 to 1545 though the earliest cranequins bearing this mark seem to reach back as far as the 1520's.
The earliest recorded dated cranequin bearing the crossed arrows mark, 1532, used to be in the author's collection and has been in that of my friend since (see post #4). He also possesses another undated sample, and one dated 1540, all by this very same workshop (see posts #4 and #7).
In the late 1530's, this workshop which, as the symbol chosen for their mark denotes, was originally specialized in accouterments for crossbows and bows, seems to have tried and explore the field of firearms; two fine matchlock arquebuses have survived, the barrels struck twice with the crossed arrows mark and both dated 1539 (Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg, inv.no. 494, and author's collection).
For both guns see
Returning to the surface decoration, we note remains of gilding in the chiseled ornaments, in the mark and the pierced tracery, together with remains of bluing in the latter. This leads to the conclusion that the complete surface of the cranequin was originally blued, with the gilt ornamentation resulting in a fine contrast - imagine the colorful impact it must have achieved almost 400 years ago!
My friend has undertaken the toil to dismantle the piece, providing singular insight in the technical 'inner life' of a cranequin, including the gearwheel. There are considerable remains of oil and grease preserved that are hundreds of years old and interestingly have adopted a greenish color, due to the amount of verdigris caused by the copper soldering the single iron parts were connected by.
As is the case with most cranequins by that 'workshop of the crossed arrows'
, the gear case is not screwed or pinned but riveted; this is why it cannot be dismantled completely, otherwise we would have taken the gearwheel out.
Anyway, enjoy studying this singular masterpiece of arts and crafts: 'high tech' anno 1545!