Last month I spent some time visiting a veteran’s memorial in Canton, Ohio. It was a weekday and the place was pretty empty — no doubt fact that the memorial is right off an interstate highway, and not really in a residential area, I suppose.
Anyway apart from a pleasant gazebo to sit in, and a path around a small pond, the things that really caught my eye were a couple of pieces of 18th century artillery that were mounted there on stone pedestals. Both were looted late in the 19th century from the Philippines and eventually found their way to Canton, Ohio. The amazing thing about them is that although they are utilitarian military weapons, they are also intricately sculpted and decorated. They were made at a time when everything was basically made by hand and decorated because why the fuck wouldn’t you make anything you are making beautiful as well as functional.
Here are some pictures, taken with my primitive flip-phone. Both are obviously bronze.
First up, a cannon.
Looking at it from the end the crew would see, there is a face — perhaps a ‘green man’ — sculpted onto the butt.
He’s a little cross-eyed.
The whole barrel of the thing is covered with reliefs and inscriptions. The touch-hole (where you’d insert a fuse to set it off) has a fire-burst decoration.
Futher along the barrel is a nice sun face.
Happily there is also a plaque explaining the Latin inscriptions;
Next up, a mortar.
I like the face on this one even more.
There is a set of loops that I think were used to adjust the mortar’s elevation. I guess you’d have chains or ropes threaded through them. They are sculpted into stylized “dolphins” typical of the sort you see in Renaissance art.
There is a plaque for this too.
This is just displaying my ignorance now, but back when I first saw the art in various Warhammer Fantasy Battle books (and the corresponding Citadel figures) of artillery with faces and other grotesquery on them, I assumed it was the drug-fueled visions of John Blanche, Ian Miller, and the other Games Workshop staff artists. I didn’t realize they were just depicting how old artillery really looked.