Author Topic: Germanic symbol cheek pieces  (Read 29103 times)

Offline Jim Kibler

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3134
    • Personal Website
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #25 on: January 12, 2014, 02:04:50 AM »
That's funny, my first impression was of a crazy man after being talked to for a half hour or so.  And no, I don't believe RCA 126 carving is baby Jesus in the manger either.  In all fairness, I'd like to know in detail how the inlay being discussed is symbolic of the rebirth of Christ.  Yes, I think this stuff is largely hokum and  know I'm not alone.  Wasn't there an article discussed a few years ago concerning this subject?  
« Last Edit: January 12, 2014, 02:43:28 AM by Jim Kibler »

Offline Buck

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 702
  • A.F.A.M. # 934, Trinity Commandry #80
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #26 on: January 12, 2014, 03:05:45 AM »
Mark,
That is interesting, the fleur de li which is the obvious finial on the scrolls of these rifles relate to that theory. The Earthly or Mother and the Father or Godly planting the seed or creating life. Both together significant of a dual existence, Earthly and Godly, Ying and Yang or Microcosm and Macrocosm.
Buck   

Offline Mark Elliott

  • Library_mod
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4856
    • Mark Elliott  Artist & Craftsman
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #27 on: January 12, 2014, 04:58:55 AM »
Jim,

Did you read through my notes?  There is a progression in the symbols that makes some sense.    Of course, you have to accept that such symbols are meaningful to some people and that they would include them in their art work.

I was raised in the church and am quite familiar with such symbols working their way into art long before I studied such things.  After all,  have you ever been to Sunday school as a child?   You are taught to include many religious symbols in your art work.   I expect that most everybody in 18th and early 19th century America had such an experience.    Also look at the timing of the  three Great Awakenings and look at what was happening in longrifle design and decoration at those times.   I do not believe it is unrelated.

Also, as you study art history,  you see symbols from the cultures' religious life sprinkled liberally throughout artistic works both directly and indirectly.   As I mentioned, I have included such symbols in my own art work from childhood.  It was part of my education in the culture in which I lived.   It would never occur to me NOT to take such things seriously.  

If you study art history, as I have,  the presumption among scholars for centuries has been that art work is influenced by the most powerful forces in peoples life;  most notably,  reproduction (life & death)  and religion (life and death).  In fact,  they are inextricably related.  

If you contact Mr. Kafka,  he is a KRA member and former president, I am sure he will point you to numerous resources that would address your questions.

Now.   All of this being said,  I don't believe most gun makers had any idea what the symbols there were using meant or were supposed to represent.   You see this all the time as carving and engraving designs that were once quite clearly identifiable devolve over time into an highly abstract version of the original idea.    One that I particularly like and have used many times in a more literal way, including on that rifle I completed about a year ago with the bold silver wire, is the Lilly of the Valley.    The Lilly has long been associated with birth and rebirth.    Why do you think churches are filled with them at Easter?   If you look at the early Lancaster trained  gunsmiths, many Moravian or trained by Moravians,   you see a very clear representation of the lilly in the carving behind the cheek piece.   This motif was brought to Winchester,VA by Simon Lauck.    His early guns and those of his contemporaries showed this motif very clearly and identifiably.  

As you move through time and south along the Great Wagon Road in the Valley of Virginia,  you still see this same motif all over the place; but it becomes more abstract with time and distance until it bears little resemblance to the original motif that spawned it. and has probably lost all symbolic meaning to the maker.    It is has become just the corruption of a design used by a master or contemporary whom may not have known the meaning either.    That doesn't mean it didn't or doesn't have meaning.   It is like the old philosophical question of if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound.   The factual answer is that it does.   The philosophical answer is not so clear.    You, I take it would say no.   I would tend to say yes it does.   Both of these positions seem somewhat ironic to me with regard to rationality vs faith.  

I understand your reluctance to engage in such thinking.     Both my primary mentors were/are not religious people and had a very different view of such things as myself.    Carving on my rifles that they would interpret as just a regurgitation of original designs and motifs have considerably more meaning to me.   I,  like Mr. Kafka,  see my work as the result of God given talent and insight.    My guns are a creation of God with a soul of sorts, and I am just the instrument.   I genuinely believe that I am only able to do what I do through the power of the Holy Spirit.     My carvings and wire work behind the cheek on many of my rifles represent to me the death and resurrection of Christ and the ultimate destruction of Satan's power on earth.   If I believe this,  why is it so hard to believe that some gun makers two hundred years ago might have believed this.  

This idea of art having meaning is so ingrained in the historical idea of art that that is what you are taught at art school.     I even rebelled against this a bit myself,  only to later fully embrace it.   In the fine art world,  ART is not about design or aesthetics,  it is about meaning.    ART is supposed to be about stretching human thought and awareness, not just making something beautiful.    In fact in art school and the fine art world, beauty for beauties sake is looked down upon.   Not just that,  it is ridiculed.   You need to  spend some time in art school critiques  to understand how brutal the criticism can be.   The point is that in every artistic tradition of which I am aware,  art and meaning go hand in hand,  like ying and yang.   It is assumed for if it isn't there,  it SHOULD BE there.


 
« Last Edit: January 12, 2014, 05:32:01 AM by Mark Elliott »

Offline Artificer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1660
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #28 on: January 12, 2014, 03:14:24 PM »
Well said, Mark, and thank your for sharing your notes on symbolism from the seminar.

The idea of a weapon having a soul, or at least a propensity for doing good or evil, comes from many cultures throughout the world long before, throughout and after the 18th century right up to modern times. 

Gumsmiths (and other tradesmen) in the 18th century who had a strong religious background (and the majority did) believed all good things came from at least the inspiration of God.  Gunsmiths, especially, may have been (and many no doubt were) concerned about the weapons they created being used only for good reasons and not evil ones.   Religious symbolism on guns may have had the added meaning to help ensure the guns were used for good purposes. 

We also cannot discount the fact that many rifles were bespoke work (contracted for by an individual customer) and the customers may have demanded/requested/expected religious symbolism on the guns they ordered.  That may have been grounded in religious belief or at least superstition, to benefit the gun and user. 

Some original “decorations” on guns (and other weapons) were also inspired by Free Masonry, whether or not the symbolism was/is easily recognized (or not recognized at all) by those who were not or are not Free Masons.     

Gus

Offline Buck

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 702
  • A.F.A.M. # 934, Trinity Commandry #80
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #29 on: January 12, 2014, 04:31:03 PM »
Mark,
Thanks for posting the notes, very interesting information and well said.
Buck

Offline Jim Kibler

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3134
    • Personal Website
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #30 on: January 12, 2014, 06:22:22 PM »
Okay, I'll try one last time...  The question at hand is whether the cheek inlays in question have a symbolic aspect, beyond obviously being derived from baroque. rococo, plant forms and scroll work.  The question is not whether symbolism was at times used in the period.  In a previous post I conceded that there are examples where this seems likely (fish, stars, lions, birds etc.).  It was suggested that the inlays in question represented the rebirth of Christ.  I'm simply asking for evidence to support this.  I try to not make a claim here unless I have evidence to back it up.  For example, if I said "that gun looks like it was made in Lancaster",  and were questioned as to why, I wouldn't just say "because somebody told be so". 

I'll also add that I get the feeling the idea of symbolism and it's over extrapolation gives some people a warm and fuzzy sort of feeling.  And I also feel it sometimes touches a nerve concerning their religious beliefs.  The original intent of the builder can never be determined at this point.  For example he could have used fish on his stock just because he thought they looked cool.   With that said, examples such as this have such a strong symbolic connotation it's hard to ignore.  What I take issue with is when symbolism is extended to extreme limits.  The evidence always seems to be scant at best in supporting these claims.   

Help me out.  Convince me this is more than some floral vine or scroll work.  You haven't done it yet.

And Mark, yes I did go to Sunday school as a child and don't recall it being as you describe.

Offline JTR

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 3230
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #31 on: January 12, 2014, 10:14:56 PM »
I think a lot of the questions, believes or doubts regarding the symboligy on some of the rifles, especially the early ones, is simply due to the different times we live in.

Today, religion continues to decline in this country. Religious symbols are being taken down because they offend some of the population, and the doctrine in general is being dismissed by many, as nothing but old wives tales.

200 years ago, religion played a much more important part in people’s lives, and symboligy was a big part of religion. Back then, religion, myth and superstition were woven together such that most people honestly believed that the devil walked the earth creating mischief and luring people to $#*!. Today, I doubt that many have ever heard of that concept.

When I see an old rifle with those designs carved or inlayed and engraved on them I try to look at them in light of the times they were put there. To me, to doubt them is like believing the INRI that Beck and some of the other makers engraved on the bottom barrel flat are nothing more than the barrel makers initials.

Today, evidence to support this is just as easy to prove as proving that the devil never walked the earth creating mischief and luring people.

And by the time Schreck was making rifles, who knows if they had any meaning other than a pleasing design?

Go Carolina! Edit; so much for Carolina,,,, Go Chargers!!
John
« Last Edit: January 13, 2014, 12:23:08 AM by JTR »
John Robbins

Offline Mark Elliott

  • Library_mod
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4856
    • Mark Elliott  Artist & Craftsman
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #32 on: January 12, 2014, 10:48:10 PM »
Jim,

I can't convince you because the scholarship is not mine.    I am basing my interpretation on notes from Lorentz Kafka.     The totality of his presentation rang true to me,  and we do see the symbols he referenced in the decoration on American longrifles over and over again.     You can see scrolls and floral elements expressed in all sorts of ways, yet we see many of the same designs over and over again.    Were these design used just because nobody could come up with anything unique?   You and I both, certainly have, so I don't think that is the case.   I think we see certain designs over and over because they had significance.    Beyond, that,  I suggest you seek out Mr. Kafka.   I don't need any further convincing.   You do.

Best

Mark

Offline vtbuck223

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 148
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #33 on: January 12, 2014, 11:13:23 PM »
I personally find it hard to believe that there is not some form of symbolism attached to any truly creative endeavor. While the evidence may not exist to make declarative statements about what the meaning was to the creator....it seems as though you lose a great deal if you refuse to even engage in the exercise of simply considering the possibilities. The symbolism in this case may have been openly spiritual or it may have been more personal in nature....or maybe it wasn't even clearly defined by the artist himself....but to cut your own templates....and hand engrave a piece like that surely meant something....even if simply his own commitment to excellence. The fact that it is used repeatedly does seem to indicated that it is more than "just a design".

Even in todays society symbolism is everywhere. Will people 200 years from now understand exactly what every example meant to the individual who placed it there....certainly not.  And often symbolism is hidden for various reasons.  If it hadn't become public knowledge....would anybody have known for sure 200 years from now  what JN8:12 symbolized on a Trijicon scope attached to an M-4 used in Afghanistan? I can just hear the debate now.....   :)"surely it is a scriptural reference"  >:( "no...it's just a serial number...where is the proof that it was otherwise".

Offline Artificer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1660
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #34 on: January 13, 2014, 12:16:50 AM »
Shreck,

I am BARELY one step up from total ignorance on Pennsylvania Deutsch / German Fraktur Art and symbolism.   Maybe I should be as part of our family started there in Lancaster County in the early/mid 18th century, though no gunsmiths.  SHUCKS!!  

However, in the following link there are what looks like two symbols that are the same basic symbols as on the cheek pieces you are asking about.  They are under the Eagle and to the right and left of the tulip.  The description says it was drawn in Bucks County, Circa 1838.  

http://libwww.freelibrary.org/fraktur/detail.cfm?searchKey=0223036250&ItemID=frk00011

Maybe this will give you a starting point for further research?
Gus
« Last Edit: January 13, 2014, 12:34:48 AM by Artificer »

Offline Don Stith

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2772
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #35 on: January 13, 2014, 12:52:02 AM »
I am convinced Lorentz believes what he says. He is entertaining. I am not  convinced he is right
 My sunday school experiences involve biblical stories and bible verses. Artistic symbolism was not involved

Offline Artificer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1660
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #36 on: January 13, 2014, 01:41:37 AM »
Though I don't wish to turn this into a religious discussion, it seems the Protestant Faiths that were more grounded in Calvinism (such as Methodists and Presbyterians) have little or no artistic symbolism taught in Sunday School.  The ones that are closer to the Catholic Church (such as Lutherans and some Anglican Churches) had/have and used/use more symbology as does the Catholic Church.  The Moravians were/are not really a "Protestant" Church as they were founded as a part of the Catholic Church about 100 years before the Protestant Reform Movement. 

"People also made fraktur as a way to express religious beliefs or to help schoolchildren with their studies."
https://libwww.freelibrary.org/fraktur/

It is commonly granted the American Long Rifle was developed by the Pennsylvania Deutsch Gunsmiths.  The "Fancy Dutch" were distinguished by trade with the "Non Dutch or Non Deutsch"  AND their prominent use of religious and other symbolism (as opposed to the "Plain Dutch" like the Amish or Mennonites). 

Though I agree that in later periods the meaning of the symbolism was lost to many (say during and Post Civil War period) and may have deformed into mere decoration, there can be little doubt that earlier symbolism definitely had religious and/or cultural meaning to some gunsmiths and their customers.  Of course that is my opinion, but I'm "sticking to it" until it can be proven otherwise as the evidence in on the side of the symbolism having great religious and or cultural meaning at least in the 18th century. 

Gus

Offline vtbuck223

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 148
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #37 on: January 13, 2014, 02:03:11 AM »
I am convinced Lorentz believes what he says. He is entertaining. I am not  convinced he is right
 My sunday school experiences involve biblical stories and bible verses. Artistic symbolism was not involved

You missed out on making a Gods-eye!? Now that I am thinking about it....I may have only made those when visiting a Catholic sunday school with a friend. 

Artificer....the symbol that you found is most certainly the same....and it proves that either she just happened to like the same, obscure, meaningless design that is on the longrifle.....or more likely....this symbol has some importance placed upon it.

Offline Mark Elliott

  • Library_mod
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4856
    • Mark Elliott  Artist & Craftsman
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #38 on: January 13, 2014, 02:36:50 AM »
I was raised in the Southern Baptist church, but the Bible I used as a teenager onward was a Catholic study bible.   There were also plenty of religious, art, and history texts in my house growing up include some Judaica.  Also,  pretty much my entire mother's side of the family is Catholic and some of my best high school teachers were Catholic,  the best, a former Jesuit priest.   That guy was full of just all kinds of information.   He had had a very broad education within the church university system here and in Europe.  The Roman Catholic church being over 2000 years old is replete with all sorts of visual and literary symbols and traditions as are the closely related  Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches.    As someone else said,  I believe the Moravians are very closely aligned with that tradition.  The true Protestant churches rejected the explicit symbolism of the Catholic church and tried to strip it from their worship practice.   They didn't get rid of all of it, and many of the symbols found their way back in over time.   

 As I was telling another member of this forum offline,  a lot of symbols aren't taught as such.   You just see them all the time and they begin to take on a meaning within the group that they don't necessarily have outside the group.    I came up with a long list of examples that I will not repeat here.   

I guess this is just a matter of believers vs. non-believers.  ;) 

Offline Avlrc

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 738
    • Hampshire County Long Rifles
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #39 on: January 13, 2014, 02:46:13 AM »
Here is a picture of a toe plate on a  Henry Topper rifle and one  headstone. The headstone is that of one of Henry Toppers daughter. Two of his daughters  died while he was here in Hampshire County, both have these symbols on their stones... I believe that Henry engraved these stones. I think the asterisk like symbol meant something to him. I think it was spiritual in nature. There is ten of these symbols on this rifle.
 


http://hampshirecountylongrifles.blogspot.com/search?q=topper

« Last Edit: January 13, 2014, 02:49:43 AM by Avlrc »

Offline Mark Elliott

  • Library_mod
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4856
    • Mark Elliott  Artist & Craftsman
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #40 on: January 13, 2014, 03:01:04 AM »
In much the manner of Martin Luther  ;) , something JUST occurred to me while going to the bathroom.   See below and tell me what you think.


Offline Artificer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1660
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #41 on: January 13, 2014, 03:14:09 AM »

The true Protestant churches rejected the explicit symbolism of the Catholic church and tried to strip it from their worship practice.   They didn't get rid of all of it, and many of the symbols found their way back in over time.  

 As I was telling another member of this forum offline,  a lot of symbols aren't taught as such.   You just see them all the time and they begin to take on a meaning within the group that they don't necessarily have outside the group.

Definitely agree,

I grew up in the Methodist Church and remember VERY little symbology UNTIL in later years our Pastor began wearing special stole/vestments a few times a year with them.  I asked my parents what all the symbols meant and they didn't know.  I even asked my Dad's Mother, who was the DEFINITE Religious Matriarch of the family and she didn't know most of them.  

Later when I switched to being a Presbyterian, there was also a little more symbolism displayed than in earlier times.

As I came to highly respect the Catholic Church in later years, because it seemed MOST of the Chaplains in the front lines with us were Catholic Priests, I was surprised at the amount of symbolism they still use.  I mean no disrespect, but rather I just was ignorant of it growing up as I was never exposed to it.

Gus


Offline Artificer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1660
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #42 on: January 13, 2014, 03:15:43 AM »
You may well be onto something there, Mark!
Gus

Offline Artificer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1660
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #43 on: January 13, 2014, 03:21:52 AM »
Here is a picture of a toe plate on a  Henry Topper rifle and one  headstone. The headstone is that of one of Henry Toppers daughter. Two of his daughters  died while he was here in Hampshire County, both have these symbols on their stones... I believe that Henry engraved these stones. I think the asterisk like symbol meant something to him. I think it was spiritual in nature. There is ten of these symbols on this rifle.
 


http://hampshirecountylongrifles.blogspot.com/search?q=topper



Wow, great supporting evidence to be certain sure.
Gus

Offline Shreckmeister

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3193
  • GGGG Grandpa Schrecengost Gunsmith/Miller
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #44 on: January 13, 2014, 04:45:27 AM »
Gus,  The symbol on the Barbara Oberholzer fraktur you linked to is too similar to the inlays on these
rifles to be coincidental.  Surely someone knows more than we do about these symbols.  I'm wondering
who the expert on fraktur is.  They might have the answer for us.
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

Offline James Rogers

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2439
  • James Rogers
    • Fowling Piece
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #45 on: January 13, 2014, 05:17:50 AM »
While I take Christ on faith, I do not take someone's theories on gunmaking symbols to be the "gospel" without evidence.  While it is possible that some sects may be more tied to symbolism more than others, there is no way to ascribe the PERSONAL meanings without the maker saying so. I suspect those cultures more into superstition and the like would take on material object representations more than others.  
The asterisk engraving shown above can be found on every third or fourth common trigger bow or barrel made across the pond from 1670 thru the flint period. It was a form style based on something but I have know idea if it meant anything to the gun engraver or the guy whose name was on the gun. While the asterisk above could have had a spiritual meaning to the carver/maker it could also have just been an easy decoration that was learned early and done over and over. Without some documentation it is all speculation. Why do I say this? That symbol is the first thing I go to when quickly scratching something on a button, etc.  ;D
« Last Edit: January 13, 2014, 05:20:26 AM by James Rogers »

Offline BJH

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1243
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #46 on: January 13, 2014, 05:28:50 AM »
Mark, thanks for the notes on Franz Kafkas presentation. That had to be 20 pluss years ago! I remember sitting there and attempting to soak up the info he provided. I never was a coherent note taker. I remember him saying the c scrolls represented the Madonna and child. BJH
BJH

Offline Avlrc

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 738
    • Hampshire County Long Rifles
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #47 on: January 13, 2014, 05:57:18 AM »
I agree symbols  may only have true meaning to the maker or his customer. But the makers & customers back in those days had tremendous amount of faith. They loved signs, designs, stars & dreams. That they believed in it,   is all that matters to me.  The argument that a symbol is so common, only makes more sense that it had a widely held meaning. I also have a little trouble believing they would waste valuable time etching something on a rifle that was totally  meaningless. But I guess even that is possible.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2014, 06:05:28 AM by Avlrc »

Offline Jim Kibler

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3134
    • Personal Website
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #48 on: January 13, 2014, 06:38:33 AM »
Okay, one more post ;)

Avlrc and others,

Why isn't the fact that something looks good and adds appeal in itself an adequate reason for someone spending time to create it?  Do you really believe this in itself was not enough motivation?  Does ornament and decoration always have to have a religious or symbolic connotation?

This has been an interesting thread, and I have to say that I'm pretty surprised by the view taken by many who have responded.  It does provide things to consider though.  I also have to wonder why subjects like this are so polarizing and ideas are held onto so dearly by some.  I think the first sentence of James Rogers post says a lot and is a reasonable approach.  What's wrong with evidence?  Don't you all agree? 

I agree that the example Gus posted a link to is pretty similar to some of the inlays in question.  Quite a find.  If there is evidence to suggest this is more than a generic floral motif, then I'll stand corrected about my view of these inlays.     


Offline Avlrc

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 738
    • Hampshire County Long Rifles
Re: Germanic symbol cheek pieces
« Reply #49 on: January 13, 2014, 06:58:12 AM »
Okay, one more post ;).  

Avlrc and others,

Why isn't the fact that something looks good and adds appeal in itself an adequate reason for someone spending time to create it?  Do you really believe this in itself was not enough motivation?  Does ornament and decoration always have to have a religious or symbolic connotation?

This has been an interesting thread, and I have to say that I'm pretty surprised by the view taken by many who have responded.  It does provide things to consider though.  I also have to wonder why subjects like this are so polarizing and ideas are held onto so dearly by some.  I think the first sentence of James Rogers post says a lot and is a reasonable approach.  What's wrong with evidence?  Don't you all agree?  

I agree that the example Gus posted a link to is pretty similar to some of the inlays in question.  Quite a find.  If there is evidence to suggest this is more than a generic floral motif, then I'll stand corrected about my view of these inlays.    


I think as time went on these symbols were more for decoration. But when they first originated, many of them  had meaning. Long before they were ever found on a rifle. Yes not every symbol or design, but many of them. The following one is just one example, the asterisk surrounded by a circle. Looks a lot like the Pinwheels & Asterisks that are so common on rifles.
http://www.creationtips.com/fish_symbol.html
« Last Edit: January 13, 2014, 07:10:33 AM by Avlrc »