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Old 11th October 2010, 03:40 PM   #1
Matchlock's Avatar
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Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
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Default My Lovely Small GIECH Bronze Cannon, the Barrel ca. 1460, the Carriage ca. 1510

Here is another extremely rare item in my collection.

The contemporary German word for it is Tarrasbüchse (terra, of, course, means earth in Latin) or Schlänglein (little serpent). In the Late Gothic and Early Renaissance periods, all sorts of cannon and guns in general were compared to fire blowing sea monsters.

This one is especially important for directly coming out of the Castle Arsenal of the Counts of Giech, Schloss Thurnau, Franconia, Northern Bavaria, where it was kept for 500 years! So after 500 years, I am the second owner - imagine! What other collector can boast of such a fact!!!

It is preserved in virtually untouched and heavily patinated condition overall. The barrel is a recycled Nuremberg cast bronze haquebut barrel of ca. 1460, finely decorated with changing flats in the Late Gothic taste. On the breech the shears mark of the Counts of Giech is struck in its earliest form of ca. 1420. I attach a scan of the Giech arms of Herr Ulreich von Giech in 1415 and in their shape of the early 17th c. The muzzle is heavily swamped and bell mouthed. The touch hole originally was located on the half right flat but was spiked and newly drilled on the top flat during its working life.

The oak wood carriage with its characteristically scrolled end, including an iron ring for pulling, can be dated to the early 16th century when it was mounted with the older haquebut barrel retained by iron bands which show traces of read lead (minium) paint. The carriage is painted in the Franconian colors white and red, now patinated and changed to a yellowish and purple color.

The wheels are original as well, only the spikes of the left wheel being old replacements. What's interesting: the oak wood wheels are not completely iron reinforced as one might tend to expect but just bear four nailed iron segments. This and the fact that it is the smallest type of cannon account for the fact that this little piece was not constructed for field use. Rather, as the word Tarrasbüchse insinuates, it was used for defense of a castle and firing thru the crenels in the walls.

The armory (Gewehrkammer) of the Counts of Giech was sold at auction by Sotheby's in two parts in 1974, but this Schlänglein was not included. In 1995 it was finally found forgotten in Sotheby's depot and went straight to my collection, back home to Bavaria, where it was made and had been preserved for almost 500 years.

The measurements:
overall length 123 cm,
barrel length 83 cm,
cal. 4 cm at the bell shaped muzzle narrowing down to 3 cm after 1 cm of depth.

Best from a very proud
Michael (proud as a peacock

BTW, I also own a perfect matchlock musket the stock branded with the Giech arms of ca. 1633, which was included in the second part of the 1974 sale.
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Last edited by Matchlock : 11th October 2010 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 12th October 2010, 11:39 AM   #2
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Default A very similar Schlänglein, ca. 1510, in the Nearby Museum of Weismain, Franconia

On this, the Nuremberg bronze barrel and carriage are contemporary, both ca. 1510.
The wheels are replacements re-using the old iron segment mounts. The carriage retains traces of its original white and red paint, the Franconian colors.

Please note that the barrel is burst at the right side of the breech. This is a fact sadly present in some Franconian museums. These are not old damages but got back to patriotic Historismus fests in the late 19th century when these antique barrels were even transformed to percussion by inserting a nipple into the touchhole and firing them by a blow with the hammer, using the then much stronger 'modern' black powder. Very sad.

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Old 12th October 2010, 02:34 PM   #3
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Default 500 years Schlänglein ... looking like kicking today

Hi Peacock ... sorry, Mich'l,

Stupendu (latin for astounding).

Afraid of this not being the just adjective for this specimen, i would add that, if one engages in a contemporaneous confrontation, one may place this cannon on the front line and his foe will realize this is an active boca de fogo (portuguese for fire mouth = cannon); so much for its half millenium age.
Another thing in your collection that, when i am grown up, wish to have a similar one
It is a superb piece indeed.
The Counts of Giech may rest in peace; this wonder is in good hands; so good as the next ones ... when i inherit it
Dramatic image, that of the Nuremberg example bursted by savage ignorant misuse
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Old 12th October 2010, 02:44 PM   #4
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Hi 'Nando,

Boca de fogo - fire mouth - brilliant!

I bet it would still be kicking today provided the correct powder mixture and amount is used.

We should talk about the details of inheriting my collection!

Thank you so much, my friend!

Michl, who very seldom feels like a peacock ...
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