Model Artillery with Field Carriage (Serpentine also known as Culverin)

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Possibly by Hans Reischperger
Austrian, Vienna, active 1595

Model Artillery with Field Carriage (Serpentine also known as Culverin), 1595

Bronze, iron, wood, and paint
Barrel L. 85.8 cm (33 3/4 in.)
Overall: 23 1/2 (H) x (23 1/2 x
Caliber: 3.3 cm (1 1/4 in.)
Cannon weight: 53 lb. 4 oz.
Signed by Master Hans Reischperger
George F. Harding Collection, 1982.2184a-b

Coiled around the front end of this cannon barrel is a serpent, reflecting the cannon type (serpentine), a medieval weapon with a relatively long barrel and light construction. In the 16th century, large artillery were given names of birds of prey or other predatory animals, such as falcon, serpent, or basilisk. Following this tradition, the Renaissance artist who made this piece used the surface of the barrel as a ground for applied and relief decoration—standing lions, fire-breathing dragons, striking serpents, arched dolphins, heraldic devices, and symbolic representations of classical Roman and Greek heroes. In addition to the serpent, the artist sculpted twin handles as dolphins. Cast in relief on the barrel are the date and the name Hans Reichsperger, which is the name of either the artist or the owner.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Walter Karchieski, "Arms and Armor in the Art Institute of Chicago" (Art Institute of Chicago/Little, Brown, and Company, 1995), p. 52 (ill.)