Artifact of the Day


Stonebow (Prodd or Balestra a Pallottole)

Italy (perhaps Florence) (1700s)

Tiller of hardwood (cherry?), with downturned rectangular section body between bow-steel and pivot of release lever. At front is octagonal beak sheathed in iron. The iron sheathing appears to have broken at some point, and either front or back portion is a replacement (WJK believed the former, perhaps due to its somewhat irregular shape—this could in fact be a recycled element from another piece). The sheathing does not cover the entire recessed area of the wood, which might suggest that the rear portion is a replacement—or perhaps both. The top center of the sight is squared off and v-notched. The trigger is elongated, and irregularly "A"-shaped, and pivoted on a threaded lug at its forward end. It is kept in the cocked position by a spring-steelto the rear of the assembly, within the stock. The trigger lever pooper is downturned, and tapers sharply in octagonal section from a squared urn-like molding at the bend of the assembly, to finish in a vase terminal like those of theforw-sight. The faces of the tiller are either routed or bevelled at the corners. The area of the upper face between the bow-steel and release lever is carved with a guilloche band with molded columnar ends, each flanked by an acanthus leaf. The foremost of these is formed with a pointed oval shield-like blank escutcheon at the base. The area forward of the arched swelling is faceted and vevelled, and is carved into oval recesses ro either side of a four-petalled flower, the whole within a pair of double carved lines above and below. From the base of the swelling and extending rearward is carved guilloche like that of the forepart of the tiller. The side faces of the downward part and the trigger are carved identical to one another with panels that conform to the contours of the tiller. The design within is a simple, repeated motif of open oval cartouches with raised centers, connected at the ends by a single bar to a circular frame charged with a carved four-petalled blossom within. The group is housed within a deeply-carved panel. Those bancs above the trigger re similar to those of the fore-part, but have a large flower of five overlapping petals, each with a small notch on the edge, on either ends of the bands.

To rear of trigger, tiller with arched swelling sloping rearward to form long straight stock ending in mushroom-like knob. Recurved iron bow-steel. Centered between bow-steel & beak is foresight. Release lever fits in deep recess, & pivots in 2 inserted trilobate iron plates which are decoratively incised with Rococo cartouches flanked by voluted symmetrical scrollwork. Pivoting rear sight is shaped like an inverted U; this piece is decorated in back, plain in front. Trigger elongated & irregularly "Z"-shaped. Upper face of tiller between the bow-steel & release lever carved with a guilloche band with molded columnar ends, each flanked by acanthus motif.

The repaired break in the tiller and the fracturing at the release lever both suggest a serious working life for the piece.