A royal cross­bow

The Field - - Under The Hammer - by Mark Mur­ray flut­ter

THERE have been many dif­fer­ent cross­bows de­signed for a vast range of pur­poses, in­clud­ing war, large game hunt­ing, tar­get shooting or, in the case of this sump­tu­ous ex­am­ple owned by the Royal Ar­mouries, small bird shooting. It is known as a pel­let or bul­let cross­bow.

This cross­bow is ex­tremely del­i­cate in form with the forepart of steel chis­elled with fo­li­ate mo­tifs, mon­sters, grotesque masks and birds all against a gilt back­ground. The bow or prod is also en­graved in a sim­i­lar fash­ion, the style be­ing rem­i­nis­cent of the baroque, es­pe­cially French baroque.

Be­tween the usual fore­sight pil­lars is a de­tach­able slide for use when shooting bolts as an al­ter­na­tive to pel­lets or bul­lets. The up­per face is in­scribed “Trincks a Stas­burg”. Chris­tian Trincks was born at Edern, near Dres­den, the date of his birth be­ing un­known, and was the son of a master-ma­son. He is recorded as be­ing ac­tive, in Stras­burg, from 1710 to about 1751. He had moved to Stras­burg in 1710 to marry the daugh­ter of a ci­ti­zen of that town and is recorded in the pro­to­cols cor­po­rat­ifs of the guild of Stras­burg gun­mak­ers, serv­ing as a gun-viewer be­tween 1714 and 1732.

This cross­bow was prob­a­bly made by him about 1720 and is tra­di­tion­ally thought to have been the prop­erty of Queen Maria Leczin­ska (1703-1768), the Pol­ish wife of King Louis XV of France, whom she had mar­ried in 1725.

The cross­bow seems to have been al­tered at a later date, prob­a­bly in the late 18th cen­tury, as the re­placed stock is in the French style of that pe­riod with the hand of the stock in the form of a grotesque, scaly dol­phin. On the right side of the stock a frame of carved flow­ers sur­rounds an in­set mother-of-pearl bust and three fleur-de-lys. The left side is in­set with a fig­ure of Diana, the huntswoman, and a hound all in sil­ver. The bust bears a strik­ing re­sem­blance to Queen Marie An­toinette with her flow­ing tresses; Maria Leczin­ska, on the other hand, is usu­ally por­trayed with short, curly hair, which sug­gests that this cross­bow may have been re-stocked for Marie An­toinette.

This cross­bow had a che­quered his­tory be­fore its ac­qui­si­tion by the Royal Ar­mouries in 1952. It came from the Hearst col­lec­tion, for­merly housed in Hearst’s Welsh cas­tle at St Donats in Glam­or­gan. Hearst’s agents had ac­quired it at a Sotheby’s auc­tion in 1932 of the col­lec­tion of the noted Swedish col­lec­tor Ma­jor T. Ja­cob­s­son. Prior to this it had been dis­played at the 1900 Paris Universal Ex­po­si­tion and was recorded then as be­ing in the col­lec­tion of the Duke of Saxe-coburg and Gotha. Even at that time it was de­scribed as “Ar­blète de la Reine Marie Leczin­ska” (Cross­bow of Queen Maria Leczinka).

The cross­bow can be seen in the Hunt­ing Gallery at the Royal Ar­mouries Mu­seum, Leeds, the na­tional mu­seum of arms and ar­mour. The mu­seum is open daily from 10am to 5pm. En­try is free. www.roy­alar­mouries.org

This del­i­cate cross­bow prob­a­bly be­longed toQueen Maria Leczin­ska of France

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