February 5th, 2011
German miniature pocket pistol made byP. Randach, circa 1760
I found this beautiful artifact on www.artnet.com. I’m not in the habit of writing about antique arms & armaments & such, but there’s a first time for everything no? Anyway, this description’s from artnet.com, and it does a far better job than I ever could of detailing the workmanship: Constructed entirely of steel and silver, with a minimum of screws used in the construction. With short, turn-off cannon barrel, octagonal at the breech, with chiselled, symmetrical strap-work decoration on a gold ground and keyed at the muzzle. The octagonal breech also decorated with strap-work around a grotesque face, the action with swan-neck, rounded cock and steel, both chiselled en suite and with a cover over the steel-spring; the action signed by the maker P. RANDACH. With a short, beaked silver-embossed butt and trigger guard decorated with engraved scroll and strap-work on a lowered and gilded ground; on the butt behind the barrel tang is depicted a seated allegorical female figure, probably the goddess Diana, with a dog, and in the centre of the trigger guard is engraved a mask.
Good lord. Yeah, if I tried to describe what I saw with any kind of fidelity to the admiration / awe this level of bygone workmanship stirs in me I would’ve just ended up with a heap of purple & yearnful good-old-days prose. Sometimes it’s best to just let the experts have their say.
That said, I will ask this: isn’t it amazing to imagine a time when an implement of destruction could be wrought in this way: not just unplastic & made to last centuries, but evoking the tenderness and fertility of the natural world with its lovely floral scrollworks, invoking the spiritual with its appeal to the beautiful huntress goddess Diana (also goddess of the moon and archetype of femininity), and also reminding the user of the psychic burden of violence via the grotesque on the breech? By referencing all this, the object commingles death with beauty, nature, the feminine creative/generative principle & the world of the spirit — as if earlier artisans knew that to offset the destructive energy they were contributing to creation by making an instrument of death, they had to make sure to pay proper tribute to everything that was its opposite.
See the original artnet listing here.
All writing © copyright C. Way / Snailcrow.com 2011