CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

French Napoleonic Prisoner of War Guillotine Model

2 minute read

 

An incredible and extremely rare artifact of world history, this monumental model of a double guillotine was created during the Napoleonic wars by a French prisoner of war. A hand-written letter of ownership, dated 1900, accounts how this model was created by a prisoner from scraps of beef and mutton (sheep) bone and was purchased from the prisoner sometime in 1812 in Bristol, England. Many of the inmates at the prisoner of war camps were skilled artisans long before they were soldiers, and because of the long duration of the conflict and cost of care, their captors encouraged detainees to use their skills to create objects to be sold at civilian open markets. Because of the intricacy of these fascinating objets d'art, very few of these models have survived the test of time. This particular model remained in the same family to which it was originally sold until recently, and it is by far the largest and most detailed compared to the handful of specimens found in museums or at auction. Adding to the rarity of this piece is that it has moving parts, as only a scant few model carvings were ever created with such mechanical accuracy.

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