Albert Benningk (1637 – 1695). Washed pen drawing of an unknown bronze barrel.
Width: 243 mm, Length: 680 mm.
Splendidly crafted barrels such as the one depicted on our drawing served as status symbols for 17th century rulers due to their cost and labour intensive manufacture. When they were captured during a war as booty by an enemy these pieces were
transported to his court and presented as a trophy.
The present drawing shows a bronze barrel which is apparently unknown. Malinowsky and Bonin(1) do not mention the piece in their detailed work about the artillery of the electors of Brandenburg – Prussia written back in 1844. Also the
present-day knowledge does not have any awareness of this work (we do thank Dr. Sven Lüken, curator at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, for his friendly disclosure). The discovery of this drawing poses some questions regarding the history of the artillery fo Brandenburg – Prussia
and the oeuvre of Benningk who belonged to the best cannon founders of the 17th century.(2)
It is known that Benningk delivered a 200 pound mortar to the electors of Brandenburg in 1691. Could the unknown barrel be seen in a context with this deal since it bears the same date? Also the intriguing similarity to the Pallas
Athene, cast in 1679, is fascinating. Benningk had founded a pair of cannons. The second one, called Pluto, has been lost. May there exist a context between the pair cast in 1679 and the present unknown barrel?[...]
In many aspects the present cannon resembles the famous Pallas Athene that was cast by Albert Benningk back in 1679 for the elector of Brandenburg, still existing in the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. So the convex Stoßboden
is almost identical, the handle being shaped as a large dolphin, holding a bullet in its mouth and turning the underside outward. It is embedded in a group of trophies on the surface of the Stoßboden. Above there follows a Hohlkehle
that bears the signature: Albert Benningk me fecit Ao 1691. The Zündfeld is also decorated by trophies and separated from the Bodenfeld by a Kammerband.
Closely resembling the Pallas Athene is also the design of the Bodenfeld. This area is dominated by the crest of the electors of Brandenburg. Below there is the portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm, followed by the inscription:
FRIDERICUS. W. D. G. MARCH. BRANDENB. S.R.I. ARCH.
ELECT. PRUSS. MAGD. JUL. CLIV.
STETIN. POM. CASSUB. VANDALOR.
IN. SILESS. CROSS. ET. SCHWIBUS.
DUX. BURGG. NORIB. PR. HALBERST:
MIND. ET. CAM: COM. HOHENZOLL.
MARCH. RAVENST. DOM. RAVENSB.
LAVLND. ET. BUTO W.
On the sides of this text there are two flying eagles, holding a sword and key in their claws, surrounded by trophies.
The Zapfenfeld shows foliage, both handles are minutely ciselled as dolphins. Below there is another group of trophies showing the elector’s hat and scepter. This depiction differs slightly from the Pallas Athene, where you can find
hat and eagle and the trophies are designed in a divergent manner. On the Gurt there is the monogram of Friedrich Wilhelm, enframed by palm branches and a large field of trophies. It follows the langes Feld, defined by foliage
ornaments on both ends. In the centre you can see an inscription and a depiction that might lead to the identification of this cannon. It is a helmet with crest, lance and sword, in the background a field with butterflies (?) flying
around. Above there is a banner with the inscription FRIDE DEN DER SIEG GEGEBEN LAEST DAS VOLCK IN FREUDEN LEBEN (Peace given by victory let the people live in pleasure). Below the central ornament this sentence is repeated in Latin.
Also the Mündungsstück resembles the one of Pallas Athene. On the Hals there is the depiction of a battle scene, the sequence of Bänder and Gesimsen is identical. A cannon ball is leaving the barrel, bearing the inscription 24, a
reference to the bullets weighing 24 pounds.
1. Malinowsky, L. v., Bonin, R. v. (1844): Geschichte der Brandenburgisch – Preussischen Artillerie.
2. Reitzenstein, A. Freiherr v. (1955): Benningk, Albert, in: Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB). Vol. 2, p. 52.