The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Cannon
  • Giovanni Mazzaroli
  • Giovanni Mazzaroli
  • Venice and Florence, Italy
  • 1688 and 1853 - 1854 (cannon barrel)
    1853 - 1854 (gun-carriage)
  • Bronze, steel, walnut and gold, carved and gilded
  • Length: 139 cm, cannon barrel
    Length: 3.8 cm, calibre, cannon barrel
    Weight: 83.003 kg, cannon barrel
    Length: 183 cm, gun-carriage
  • Inscription: '10. MAZZAROLI . F . 1688' engraved on a scroll
    Inscription: 'G. GIANI FERRO, QUESTO CARRO L 1854'
    Inscription: 'F. QUEST CARRO A. BARBETTI. IN. FL. L'. 1853'
  • A1245
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Giovanni Mazzaroli (1668-1744)

    Italy, Venice, 1688.

    Carriage by Angiolo Barbetti (1805-1873) and Giuseppe Ciani (fl. 1850s), to a design by Louis-Auguste de Sainson (1801-1877)

    Italy, Florence, 1853-54.

    Carriage made of walnut wood, partly gilded, and polished iron

    Length: 141.5 cm.
    Height of Hercules group on cascabel: 16.3 cm.
    Maximum diameter at base of cascabel: 15.2 cm.
    Width between trunnions: 17.6 cm.
    Maximum diameter at muzzle: 10.5 cm.
    Bore: 3.8 cm.
    Weight of cannon barrel: 83.003 kg.

    On banderole held by two putti, incised inscription: ‘IO MAZZAROLI F.1688’ (‘Giovanni Mazzaroli made this, 1688’)
    On carriage:
    In cartouche F. QUESTO CARRO/A. BARBETTI IN. FI./L’[ANNO]. 1853 (‘This carriage was made by A. Barbetti in Florence in the year 1853’)

    On ironwork at front of carriage, below barrel: G. CIANI FERRO/QUESTO CARRO/L.[ANNO] 1854 (‘G. Ciani [made] the ironwork for this carriage in the year 1854’)

    Cannon, decorated in high relief, with Hercules, Jupiter and the Titans, and other figures. The cascabel has Hercules, naked except for piece of drapery and club in raised left hand, struggling with two naked male figures on ground, one of whom holds dagger in right hand. Followed by spiral band of broad ribbon, and then by acanthus leaf, within which is placed the touch-hole in form of scallop shell. From here to the trunnions a scene of Jupiter and the Titans, with at top Jupiter, seated on his eagle, fire-bolts in each hand and another held by the eagle in its claws, surrounded by four winds in form of cherub heads. Jupiter is on point of hurling downwards the fire-bolt held in his right hand on to the Titans below. Nine naked male figures of Titans struggle and cower beneath an avalanche of rocks. This scene is only on upper side of barrel, and is in exceptionally high relief, rising to nearly 5 cm. above the surface of the barrel. The barrel left smooth and undecorated beneath, except for the spiral of acanthus leaf decoration, which runs continuously. The relationship between the length and the bore is exceptionally high, at c. 1:37.

    At trunnions, double band of acanthus leaf decoration runs round whole barrel, and from this springs spiral band of acanthus foliage, within which are interspersed gambolling figures of putti, and which runs four times round barrel, interspersing with undecorated smooth bands of metal, until it reaches the muzzle where, between two bands of laurel wreath, the decoration is a frieze with the rape of the Sabines. The signature and date are on the banderole held by two putti, on first run of the acanthus foliage scroll.

    Cast cannon, with a great deal of undercutting in the cast, especially on the acanthus foliage band; also Jupiter’s left leg and fire-bolts, eagle’s neck. Traces of clay investment, especially in acanthus leaves on underside of barrel. A bronze alloy, with averages of c. 90% copper from the samples surveyed, c.6% tin and c. 3% zinc.

    Some wear to higher surfaces, especially along top of barrel. Damage to first ‘O’ and to ‘F’ of signature.

    Mounted on a wood and iron carriage commissioned by Anatole Demidoff and made in Florence in 1853/54 by Angiolo Barbetti (1805-73) and G. Ciani, of carved walnut wood, with polished iron additions. The woodcarving selectively gilded, with the ground textured with punching. Along sides, scrolling foliage and volutes, at centre pair of bearded tritons support the arms of Demidoff, Prince of San Donato: per fesse argent, in chief a couped barrulet dancetty sable; in base sable a hammer proper; over all a bar or. At front, bearded grotesque mask between two satyr herms. At rear, another grotesque mask. Carriage bound with polished steel straps secured by large hemispherical-headed rivets. A sliding wedge provided for elevation. Wheels are steel with twelve spokes, the steel encased with wooden panels over the spokes and around rims, with foliate rosettes and other decoration.

    Anatole Demidoff, Prince of San Donato (1813-1870), by 1853
    San Donato sale, Paris, 6 April 1870, no.633
    Bought by the 4th Marquess of Hertford through Mannheim, for 12,100 francs

    1890, Hertford House, European Armoury, ‘A bronze cannon with figures in relief representing the War of the Giants and mythological subjects, on carved wood carriage, partly gilt and mounted with steel dated 1854’, valued at £250, 1898.

    London 1994, no.67

    Hertford House 1890, fols. 301-02
    Hertford House 1898 [….]
    Hertford House 1898b, p. 93

    Mann 1962, pp. 592-93, A1245
    Norman 1986, p. 255, A1245

    Demidoff 1870, p. 129, no.633
    Laking 1902-03, VI, pp. 259 and 263, no. 1197
    Mann 1941, pp. 774-75
    Theuerkauff 1967, p. 293, note 7
    Norman/Edge 1982, p. 32
    Scalini 1988, p. 69
    London 1994, p. 102, no.67
    Capwell 2011, pp. 224-25
    Malgouyres 2013, p. 185


    With riotous decoration in high relief running the whole length of its barrel, A1245 is one of the most elaborately decorated cannon to survive and indeed one of the finest examples of bronze sculpture in the Wallace Collection, as Jennifer Montagu recognised, when she described it as ‘the most exciting piece of bronze in the Wallace’. It may be regarded as the masterpiece of the Venetian founder Giovanni Mazzaroli, who made the cannon as a young man, aged 20, and who seems, as discussed further below, to have used this work to make a claim for his status as an artist aware of the great figures in modern Italian sculpture, and thus as something more than a simple artisan founder. A1245 was unquestionably conceived as a work of art rather than as a weapon, and is unlikely to have been used for anything other than ceremonial purposes at most. One possible function may have been as a small cannon to be used for saluting. Nevertheless it is quite capable of being fired. With its 38 mm. bore, the cannon belongs to a class of Venetian front-loading culverins known as the moschetto da zuogo, which typically had a calibre of 42-45 mm., and a length of 140-60 cm.

    The manufacture of artillery was one of the most important state-sponsored activities within the Republic of Venice, from the fifteenth century, through to the fall of the Republic at the hands of the French, in 1797. For a state with an economy in great part dependent on maritime trade, and with an extensive range of Italian and Mediterranean trading interests and imperial possessions to protect, a reliable supply of high-quality artillery was a fundamental strategic necessity. The excellence of Venetian artillery was an important contributory factor in the success of the Republic in maintaining its trade routes in the Levant throughout a period of some three hundred years, despite frequent wars and territorial losses to the expansionist Ottoman empire. Artillery production for the state was from 1524 concentrated within the Arsenal of Venice, and was closely controlled by the Venetian state, which employed the artillery founders who worked for it in the Arsenal. Three dynasties of founders dominated the Venetian artillery industry from the late 15th century until the fall of the republic in 1797: the Alberghetti, who were active from at least 1491 through to 1797; the di Conti, active from c. 1460 to c. 1685; and their relatives the Mazzaroli, active from perhaps the 1630s until 1797. The most significant members of the Mazzaroli dynasty were Francesco Mazzaroli (c. 1626- 1704) and Giovanni Mazzaroli (1668-1744), both of whom signed a number of pieces of ordnance.

    Whilst the history of Venetian artillery up to the early 17th century has been the subject of much scholarly interest in the recent years, the later period, from the middle of the 17th century to the fall of the Republic in 1797, has been much less closely studied. The relationship of Francesco and Giovanni Mazzaroli has for example hitherto been unclear, but archival research undertaken for this catalogue has revealed much new information about both men and their work for the state foundries in the Venetian Arsenal (see Appendix A). It was unquestionably Francesco who brought the family to prominence, apparently the first member of the family to gain the prestigious office of public fonditor or state founder. During Francesco’s lifetime, the Mazzaroli family succeeded the di Conti as one of two families of state founders , along with the Alberghetti, in the service of the Republic. This succession was assured through dynastic marriages, notably that of Giovanni Mazzaroli with the widow of the last of the di Conti. Francesco and Giovanni were without question the most inventive and skilled members of the family, and their careers were evidently closely intertwined during the father’s lifetime. Giovanni Mazzaroli’s own son became a state founder, and the family continued to work at the Arsenal until the fall of the Republic in 1797.

    Francesco Mazzaroli was born c.1626 and died in 1704 (doc. 27). He is first recorded in the early 1660s, working as an assistant to the state founders Nicolò and Gerolamo di Conti (doc. 54). The link between the two families was consolidated by the marriage in 1655 of Nicolò to Francesco Mazzaroli’s sister, Laura. After the deaths of Nicolò in December 1661 and Gerolamo in October 1662 (doc. 50), Francesco, noted as molto abile in his work, was entrusted in 1663 with the task of instructing in the profession of founder his nephew, the five-year old Marcantonio di Conti, son of the late Nicolò (doc. 54). At this stage and for some time to come, Francesco Mazzaroli was treated significantly less well than the other founders, notably the dominant Alberghetti family, who no doubt jealously guarded their privileges. Whilst he was instructing Marcantonio di Conti, Francesco received no salary, although his pupil was from the age of five being paid the apprentice’s stipend of five ducats a month (doc. 57). In 1664 Francesco had to petition the Senate, to be paid the ten ducats per month stipend enjoyed by the other founders (doc. 55). In his submission, Francesco mentioned that he had worked for the Conti from the ‘most tender years of my youth’ (più teneri anni di mia gioventù), so perhaps from as early as the 1630s. He was granted the stipend, it seems rather grudgingly and for only for so long as his instruction of the young Marcantonio lasted (doc. 54). Sometime before 1671 Francesco Mazzaroli was accepted as a public fonditor, but in 1674 he was still being paid at a lower rate than the other state founders, and also did not enjoy the privilege of a house, a normal perk for the state founders (docs. 60-62). In the middle decades of the century, the Senate and the Provveditore sopra le Artiglierie, the officials appointed by the Council of Ten to oversee the gun foundries in the Arsenal, were deeply concerned by the lack of new blood among the state founders, principally caused by the decline of the di Conti dynasty. In 1656, one of the principal arguments put forward in the petition to appoint Nicolò and Gerolamo di Conti as state founders had been the need to ensure that the Alberghetti were not the only family working on ordnance for the State (doc. 53). In requesting the Senate accept Mazzaroli’s petition submitted in 1674, the Provveditore sopra le Artiglierie noted that there were currently only three active founders, including Francesco Mazzaroli (doc. 62). There were two further reasons for urging acceptance of the petition. Francesco had demonstrated his initiative by developing what was billed as a significant technical improvement to Venetian ordnance, through the development of a steel holed bolt (lumiere d'azzale) which could be inserted into the vent of a cannon. The aim of the invention was to reduce the erosion of the vent caused by deflagration (combustion) after firing (sfogonarsi), which significantly reduced the life of a cannon (docs. 58-62). Francesco’s personal circumstances had also been affected by the death of his eldest son Crocinto, killed by a fall in the Arsenal building, whilst under instruction from his father (docs. 60-62). Apart from the personal loss, Crocinto’s death, which occurred on 15 November 1673 (doc. 13), had resulted in his father losing a significant sum of invested capital. Although the record of the death and other documents state that Crocinto was eleven, the record of his baptism (doc. 4) indicates that he was in fact only seven at the time of his death.

    Crocinto’s untimely death meant however that Francesco Mazzaroli began to instruct another son, Giovanni Mazzaroli, who was to go on to make A1245. In June 1677, Giovanni was granted the customary apprentices’ stipend of six ducats per month (docs. 63-67). He had been born on 7 February 1668, his patrician godfather at his baptism Alvise Sagredo (doc. 5). He therefore probably began his apprenticeship well before he reached the age of ten, as was normal. On 27 January 1683, at the age of fourteen, Giovanni was formally appointed a public fonditor by the Senate (docs. 70-72). Francesco Mazzaroli continued to undertake valuable work for the Venetian State, carrying out in 1682, it seems at his own expense, a massive survey of the state of ordnance in the fortresses and towns in the Terra Firma, the Venetian territories on the Italian mainland (docs. 68-69). In February 1686 Francesco and Giovanni Mazzaroli were finally allocated one of the four houses reserved for founders, following the death of Sigismondo Alberghetti (docs. 73-77). Francesco and his wife Alessandra, who died in 1710 at the age of c. 66 (doc. 32), had numerous further children, the records of baptisms and deaths bearing witness to the high infant mortality of the age (e.g. docs. 11-12, 14, 16, 17). Among Giovanni Mazzaroli’s siblings, his younger sister Corona, born in August 1672 (doc. 10), went on to make an advantageous second marriage in 1717, to the considerably older patrician Lorenzo Pisani (doc. 34); she was probably the last of Francesco and Alessandra Mazzaroli’s children to die, at the age of 85 in 1758 (doc. 44). Although no further records of his activity have thus far come to light, another of Francesco’s sons Antonio (1677-1742, docs. 14 and 40) was also appointed a public fonditor, signing a document in this capacity together with Giovanni in 1720 (doc. 85, see also 81-84).

    Giovanni Mazzaroli himself married quite late, in 1698, at the age of thirty. His wife was Zanetta, the widow of Marcantonio di Conti (doc. 21), who had in the 1660s been instructed by Francesco Mazzaroli, after the deaths of his father and uncle (docs. 47-54). The di Conti are recorded as extinct in 1715 (doc. 79), and Marcantonio may well have been the last of his line. He signed, with an otherwise unrecorded Nicolò di Conti, a 40-pounder culverin in 1685, but is the only member of the di Conti family recorded as a public fonditor in February 1686 (doc. 74). Francesco Mazzaroli’s sister Laura had already married into the di Conti in 1655, but Giovanni’s dynastic marriage to Zanetta in 1698 must have been the critical step in cementing the formal replacement of the ancient di Conti dynasty by the Mazzaroli, as founders serving the Venetian state in the Arsenal foundries. Giovanni and Zanetta had a large family and, like Francesco and Alessandra, suffered many tragic losses (e.g. docs. 22-24, 28-30). Two of Giovanni’s sons, Bortolo and Giuseppe, followed their father’s profession and were accepted as apprentices in 1715 (docs. 78-80). However Bortolo died just two years later, aged 13, after falling from a Venetian rooftop balcony (altana ; doc. 35). Giuseppe presumably did become a public fonditor , although he was not mentioned as such when he died at the age of 66, in 1776 (doc. 46). Zanetta died at the age of 70 in 1739 (doc. 39), The last professional reference to Giovanni Mazzaroli was in a currently untraced document in 1732, and he died on 22 December 1744, at the age of 75 (doc. 41).

    The new archival evidence thus provides us with a much clearer picture of the rise of the Mazzaroli family, and their position within the gun founding industry in the Venetian Arsenal. Francesco Mazzaroli, evidently a man with energy and intelligence, made the crucial transition from humble beginnings, to the privileged position of state founder. A close working relationship between the Mazzaroli and the ancient but moribund di Conti family was cemented by dynastic marriages, crucially that between Francesco’s son Giovanni Mazzaroli, and Zanetta di Conti. These factors helped to ensure that Giovanni Mazzaroli’s own path to the status of public fonditor was easier than his father’s had been, and Giovanni enjoyed a long and successful career. To better understand his achievements as a founder, however, the evidence of surviving work is crucial. At present, Francesco and Giovanni are the only members of the Mazzaroli dynasty by whom signed works are known; a list is provided in Appendix B to this entry.

    A high level of facility is indicated by A1245 and other works by Giovanni Mazzaroli, notably the most important documented works by him to survive, the ordnance cast on the occasion of the visit of King Frederik IV of Denmark to Venice, early in 1709. Venetian artillery was very highly regarded, only ordnance produced in Germany being considered technically superior, so far as production in Continental Europe was concerned. The gift of Venetian ordnance to the Danish head of state would have been very special and, rather like the gifts of glass made to Frederik during his visit, a demonstration of the Republic’s claim, a few years after its successive defeats of Turkish forces in the Morea, to be still counted as a leading European power.

    For the occasion of Frederik IV’s visit, the Senate of Venice commissioned one cannon each from Giovanni Mazzaroli and from Giovanni Battista Alberghetti, and a mortar from Mazzaroli. Second examples of all three weapons were cast so they could be retained for the collection of the Venetian state, and were illustrated as Plates XIV and XVII of Domenico Gasperoni’s compilation of engravings of ordnance in the collection, which was maintained in the Arsenal until after 1797. All three of the pieces of ordnance actually presented to the Danish King survive in the Tøjhusmuseet in Copenhagen, while the Venetian cast of Alberghetti’s cannon also survives, on the Esplanade of the Invalides in Paris. After their occupation of Venice, the French had all the ordnance in the Arsenal transported to Paris, where it was eventually sold to merchants and melted down. The Alberghetti cannon was for some reason retained, and is thus the only piece to survive today.

    Gasperoni’s Artiglieria Veneta is one of the most precious sources for understanding of the work of the Mazzaroli, because of the number of pieces of their artillery which are illustrated in the compendium , which was essentially an album of the Republic’s collection of the finest examples of artillery. The numerous examples of the Mazzaroli’s work in the Artiglieria Veneta almost certainly, at one level, simply reflects the fact that the documenting of its achievements in the manufacture of ordnance seems to have been more clearly systematically undertaken during the last century of the Venetian Republic’s existence. But it does also indicate the esteem in which the work of the Mazzaroli must have been held at this time; Gasperoni does not for example include a single piece by Orazio Alberghetti, who is discussed below. The pieces by Francesco and Giovanni Mazzaroli illustrated by Gasperoni include: a small falconetto signed by Francesco and dated 1676, approximately the same length as A1245, with spiralling vine ornament running along the barrel; a large culverin ‘da 20’, again signed by Francesco and dated 1684; a 500-pounder mortar signed ‘IL. MAZZAROLI.F.’ and dated 1679; what must have been a superb 20-pounder culverin, signed by Giovanni and dated 1701, with the arms of the then Proveditori alle Artiglierie; the Venetian Republic’s example of the large culverin cast for the King of Denmark in 1708 and signed by Giovanni, and the Republic’s example of the mortar he cast on the same occasion. The 1676 falconetto in particular demonstrates the Mazzaroli’s liking for spiralling ornament running along the barrel, a key feature of A1245.

    This feature can also be found, in the form of a trailing vine leaf which winds around the cannon barrel, in the best surviving comparative piece to A1245, a small cannon in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, signed by Francesco Mazzaroli (fig.[..]). This gun is very similar to no.[…] in its concept, with riotous mythological figurative decoration together with decorative ornament. Like A1245, the cascabel is formed from a figural group, depicting Hercules and the Nemean Lion, whilst there is a figure of Jupiter with his eagle, near the trunnions. It suggests, as does A1245, an ambition on the part of the Mazzaroli to create cannon which might be regarded as competing, in their wealth of figurative detail, with the great paintings to be seen in the city of Venice. Indeed, Wendelin Boeheim suggested that one of the putti on the Hermitage cannon was copied from Paolo Veronese’s painting of the Rape of Europa in the Palazzo Ducale in Venice. Certain decorative elements of the decoration of the Hermitage cannon, such as the acanthus leaf above the figure of Jupiter, are very similar to comparable parts of A1245. However, the figurative overall is much stiffer and clumsier than the notably waxy and impressionistic detail of A1245. A1245 may also be compared with the so-called Furies Cannon in the Royal Armouries, made in 1773 for the Order of the Knights of Saint John on Malta, but apparently a re-cast of a cannon dated 1684 by Orazio Antonio Alberghetti. The Furies Cannon is almost as elaborately decorated as the two Mazzaroli cannon; whilst it is not completely clear which parts of the decoration were added in 1773, the spiral pattern of laurel branches covering the reinforce is likely to form part of the 17th-century original pattern, and may be compared with the acanthus decoration on A1245. Orazio Antonio Alberghetti (1656-c. 1690), a generation older than Giovanni Mazzaroli, might well have been regarded by the ambitious younger founder as something of both a role model and a rival. Whilst working with his father in Turin for the Dukes of Savoy, Orazio made at the age of only fourteen a fine miniature cannon, as a trial piece or prova. He later returned to Venice, and undertook with Francesco Mazzaroli the provisioning with artillery of the warships the Drago Volante and Fama Volante, between 1672-73 (doc. 61). The first casting of the Furies Cannon in 1684, just a few years before A1245, would have been undertaken in the Arsenal foundries in Venice.

    Other surviving works by the Mazzaroli, including the cannon in Copenhagen, have decoration which, whilst often inventive and imaginative by the standards of much ordnance, is altogether less fluid and impressionistic than that on A1245. The relatively simple decoration to be found on most of their surviving guns and mortars may of course be largely explained by the fact that it is military ordnance intended for a practical offensive function. Only the two wall guns in Vienna, the only known works jointly signed by father and son, have decoration which is in any way comparable in parts, in its freedom and fluidity. However, they are made with a completely different technique, with thin bronze decoration applied to the iron barrels.

    A1245 is therefore exceptional in its quality as a work of art, the modelling astonishingly waxy and vibrant, and containing numerous virtuoso passages, such as the undercutting of Jupiter’s left leg. The modelling, with what appears to be virtually no afterworking to the cast, could not be more different from that of the cannon and mortar in Copenhagen, which are very carefully finished, with much afterworking up of the surfaces.
    Giovanni Mazzaroli appears in A1245 to have sought to raise the essentially artisanal (if highly skilled) profession of the artillery founder to a higher level, one which could aspire at the least to the status of sculptor. The cannon is accordingly highly sculptural in its conception and shows a considerable, if not without its clumsy moments, gift for figurative narrative. The most purely figurative element, the cascabel with a group depicting a man struggling to overcome two male figures, would seem to refer to Michelangelo’s abortive project in the 1520s, to create a colossal sculptural group of Samson fighting two Philistines, to be placed before the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. With the fall of the Republican government in 1530, the plans fell through, but a number of small bronze groups are thought to reflect Michelangelo’s original concept. These bronze groups were in turn the source for a series of North European sculptures in ivory or wood, including an ivory group in the Rijksmuseum attributed to the Dresden ivory sculptor Paul Heermann (1673-1732), a boxwood group attributed to Peter Hencke, formerly in the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé collection, and a boxwood group attributed to the circle of Leonhard Kern, sold at auction in Berlin in 2013. Similar pieces, but with only a single Philistine, include an ivory group by David Heschler in Schwerin and another attributed to Leonhard Kern, formerly in the Abbott Guggenheim collection. The cascabel group differs quite significantly from the bronze groups after Michelangelo’s model, and is in some respects closer to a derivation such as the Kern circle boxwood, with its ungainly position of the Philistine. The struggling figures may also be compared with those on a lost Venetian doorknocker, illustrated in the mid-18th century by Giovanni Grevembroch, recorded as at Palazzo Rezzonico at S. Barnaba.

    The frieze with the rape of the Sabine women, near the muzzle, likewise contains a conscious reference to another Florentine work of art, Giambologna’s bronze relief of this subject, set below his celebrated marble figure group in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence (fig.[..]; see also no.[S113]). It is less easy to identify a source for the key central scene with Jupiter overcoming the Titans. There was a degree of interest in this subject in the second half of the seventeenth century; it was the central theme in Algardis’ famous firedogs (nos.[S161-62]). A relief of The Fall of the Giants was made by the Florentine sculptor Carlo Marcellini (1643-1713) in 1674, whilst a wax relief by Giovan Battista Foggini survives as a record of the lost fresco of this subject, designed by him and painted by Anton Domenico Gabbiano c.1692-94 for the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’Medici’s appartments in Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

    The presence of at least two quotations from Florentine Renaissance sculpture suggests that Giovanni Mazzaroli visited the city of Florence, which is indeed probable. The Mazzaroli clearly had some business links with Florence, as the locks of the wall guns in Vienna are signed by a Florentine maker, Antonio Maestre. The model cannon with the Medici arms in the Bargello, signed by Giovanni Mazzaroli, appears to be some form of demonstration piece, and it would seem very probable that its maker would have accompanied it if he was bidding for work in Florence. The conscious display of knowledge of Michelangelo and Giambologna seems to indicate a bid by the young Giovanni Mazzaroli to advertise his status as an artist craftsman, above the normal run of artillery founders. In the Artiglieria Veneta one plate illustrates a number of small cannon, none as elaborate as A1245. The manuscript caption (probably by Domenico Gasperoni) to this plate in the Wallace Collection’s copy suggests that some cannon were valued in the Arsenal museum simply for their inventiveness of design and execution: ‘Pieces of a minute calibre displayed in the gallery, partly spoils conquered from enemies, and partly for their construction, no less capricious than diligent.’

    A1245 bears no incised figure recording the weight, which was obligatory for artillery produced to the order of the Venetian state. It must have been made by Giovanni Mazzaroli as a private commission, outside his employment as a public fonditor. It was technically illegal for employees of the state to work privately, although in fact this clearly seems to have happened quite regularly from the 16th century onwards. It seems that the founders had to undertake private work in order to bolster their not especially generous and sometime uncertain salaries from the state. As well as the foundries within the Arsenal, reserved for the casting of ordnance for the state, two additional foundries were built by the state on the Campo della Tana, adjacent to the founders’ housing block. One was for the use of the Alberghetti family, the other for the di Conti; it may be assumed that the second foundry became available for use by the Mazzaroli, as they became dynastically allied with the di Conti. From around 1540 onwards, when the facilities within the Arsenal were upgraded, the foundries in the Campo della Tana began to be used for a variety of work, casting guns for allies of the state or for the Republic’s merchant fleet, statues and works of art for the state, and also private commissions. It would seem most probable that A1245 was cast in one of the Campo della Tana foundries. It is possibly significant that Giovanni Mazzaroli’s signature on the cannon is so small and discreet as to be all but hidden, unlike for example the enormous signature on the breech of the cannon made for the king of Denmark. It is conceivable to hypothesize that whilst Giovanni wished to sign this important work as his, he did not wish the fact to be too blatantly apparent.

    There are no obvious clues as to who might have commissioned A1245 and on what occasion. It is possible that it was made for someone in Florence, although more probable that the commission came from a Venetian. The greatest cause for celebration in Venice in 1688 was the election as the new Doge of Francesco Morosini (1619-1694), the Venetian Captain-General whose victories in the Morea, during the sixth war between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire (1684-99), made him a hero not only in his native city, but throughout Europe. Morosini was elected Doge on 3 April 1688, following the death of Marcantonio Giustinian. As Morosini was on campaign in the Morea (Peloponnese), his election was first celebrated in May 1688 in the port of Piraeus, with great festivities, including ‘copiose scariche di Moschetto, Cannone..’ and a great firework display. It was only in January 1690 that Morosini arrived in Venice to a triumphant welcome, following which the celebrations for his return and his inauguration as Doge took place, lasting three days. As in the earlier celebrations in Zante, there must at times have been an almost constant vollying of cannon salutes. The bronze standard column outside the Arsenal in Venice was made by Giovanni Francesco Alberghetti in 1693, to celebrate Morosini’s victories in the Morea. Unlike A1245, it has an inscription to this effect, bears Morosini’s arms and carries the more conventional iconography of a triumphant Neptune. The main scene on A1245, with Jupiter crushing the Titans, was of course a conventional allegory for victory over a numerous and brutish enemy. It is perhaps just possible to a slightly Turkish aspect in the broadly modelled faces of the Titans, although the chained captives in one of the wall guns in Vienna are very much more clearly intended to represent Turks. The notion therefore that A1245 might have been commissioned to celebrate in some way Morosini’s victories is attractive but, in the present state of knowledge, can only be considered a tentative hypothesis.

    It is not known where and when Prince Anatole Demidoff acquired A1245, but it may have been shortly before he commissioned, in the early 1850s, the very beautiful carriage on which the cannon is now mounted, the work of the Sienese woodcarver Angiolo Barbetti (1805-1873) and the metalworker Giuseppe Ciani. Barbetti was born in Siena and trained in the workshop of his father, as well as at the Istituto di Belle Arti, before travelling to other Italian cities, including Rome. By the mid-1820s, he had his own workshop in Siena while by the 1830s his reputation, and the quality of the commissions he received, were both rising. Already in the 1830s Barbetti had English clients, among them Thomas Morgan and a Mr Newton, who lived in Siena. In 1842, along with his family and his best workmen, he moved to Florence where he opened a new workshop, near the Ponte delle Grazie, and where Prince Anatole Demidoff became one of his major clients. The workshop was almost continually engaged in commissions for Demidoff, from the early 1840s through to the 1860s. Between 1842 and 1844, for example, Barbetti made a pair of two organ cases, in the form of the façade of the Cathedral of Siena, for the Villa Demidoff in Polverosa, near Florence. Working mainly in a neo-Renaissance style, Barbetti became the leading intaglio wood carver in Florence, with around 100 employees in his workshop. Among his best-known works is the cabinet which he made in 1845 and which he exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851, where he was awarded a medal. The cabinet was immediately bought for the nascent South Kensington Museum, today’s Victoria & Albert Museum. In 1850, Barbetti exhibited a number of specimens of his carvings in walnut, as well as other woods. He seems to have employed specialists to undertake the gilding on his furniture, so presumably also did so in the case of the carriage for A1245.

    The maker of the iron work for the carriage, Giuseppe Ciani, was based in Empoli, outside Florence. In 1850 he exhibited in Florence a lever latch in iron, which was praised in the official report for the exhibition as ‘perfect in its execution, and worthy of much praise for the mechanism.’ In 1854, another Ciani, Gaspero Ciani from Fusignano near Ravenna, was much praised for a lock for a safe of his own invention. It may be that Giuseppe Ciani moved to Florence at some point, as among the exhibitors at the International Exhibition in London in 1862 was a G. Ciani of Florence, who exhibited a ‘Lock, with countless combinations; other locks.’ A Guglielmo Ciani, a sculptor in Florence who exhibited two sculptures in plaster at the 1850 exhibition, was perhaps some relative of Giuseppe.

    The San Donato sale catalogue provided a little information about the carriage, explaining that it was designed by M. de Sainson, whose drawings were based on the carriage of a small model cannon which had once belonged to Cosimo III de’Medici (1642-1723), and was given by him to the family of Franceschi of Pistoia. The whereabouts of this cannon is not known today but, given that a model cannon by Giovanni Mazzaroli survives in the Bargello, it is not impossible that the one with the Franceschi family was also made by him. The French painter Louis-Auguste de Sainson (1800-c, 1877; fig.[..]), best-known today as the illustrator on board French naval expeditions to Australia, 1826-29,and to the Indian Ocean, South China Sea and Australasia, 1830-32, was a close friend of and secretary to Anatole Demidoff, who appointed him librarian for his libraries at Quarto and San Donato in 1848. He was one of the artists and scientists who accompanied Demidoff on his ambitious expedition to the Crimea and the Caucasus in 1837. Sainson later became curator of Demidoff’s Museo di San Martino, today the Museo di Napoleone della Villa di San Martino, and he provided the texts for a sumptious series of lithographs of views in Elba and Tuscany sponsored by Anatole Demidoff, after drawings by André Durand which Demidoff had commissioned in 1852.

    A1245 was evidently regarded by visitors as one of the many highlights of the collections at the Villa San Donato. It was described by Tullio Dandolo in his 1863 guide to the Villa and its collections as occupying the centre of the Sala delle armi, and as being so finely modelled that Benvenuto Cellini himself could not have done better. Dandolo suggested that the cannon had been found in the Venetian lagoon, dating it entirely erroneously to 1528 and associating it with Doge Andrea Gritti (1455-1538). Although the signature and date were accurately described in the 1870 sale catalogue, evidently this was the romantic story which was regularly fed to visitors to the Villa. The French poet Louise Colet, in her description of the contents, wrote of how the cannon had been fished out of the Venetian lagoon, where it had been for several centuries.

    Giovanni Mazzaroli could no doubt never have imagined that he and his cannon would have become the subject of a poem written in the late 20th century, by the modern American poet Peter Meinke. Meinke wrote the poem whilst teaching at the Eckerd College Student Center in London in 1992; during a visit to the Wallace Collection, he was struck, as perhaps are many visitors to the museum, by the contrast between the beauty of A1245 and other works of art in the Wallace Collection’s Armoury galleries, and their potential to cause death and destruction.

    Mazzaroli’s Cannon

    Gods cluster like orgiastic barnacles
    along the barrel of this exquisite machine

    heating up as shots explode toward flesh
    or fortress death aesthetically pleasing

    ah, the elegant weapons!
    the curved dagger inlaid crossbow the stern

    pike manifer and chanfron etched with bands
    of delicate tansies The knuckled anarchy

    of art pounds the pursed lips
    of common decency As rows of soldiers

    fold in blood vomit excrement
    Mazzaroli polishes the brilliant bodies

    which he loves not because they’re gods
    but because they’re naked: those muscles

    those buttocks the sinews of the neck
    the abstract line of back and breast enticing

    beyond any responsibility so when
    the inevitable bad ending ends he

    and all artists shall be ready
    with their stunning ivory-crusted
    gold-leaf and silvered caskets