While in France last month, I never expected to purchase military items of any sort. My sole mission was searching for beautiful French treasures that would serve decorative purposes. Little did I know that one afternoon, at a flea market in Paris, I would find the decorative and military worlds joining forces in such a splendid way.
I was drawn to this pair of large (13" tall) brass vessels by the detailed repoussed oak leaves and acorns.
I was not certain what they were until I picked up one of the cylinders. It appeared to be a brass shell of some sort. My interest drew the attention of the vendor. After a pleasant exchange, the conversation focused on these wonderful vases. I learned the very interesting history of these pieces and of trench art itself.
Toward the bottom of the shells, there is beautiful script which together reads,
This was an area in the north-eastern region of France which saw extreme battles during WWI.
At the end of this post I have attached a link to an amazing 1918 NewsReel from this exact area complete with period French music.
I felt a connection to these war souvenirs and decided to take them home with me to the U.S. as I know several collectors of military antiques that would be thrilled to be the caretakers of such important items.
Upon returning home I began to research this specific type of trench art and have learned quite a bit, some of which I pass on to you today.
Projectiles with brass casings, first produced in 1857, replaced cannon balls and other artillery ammunition as the century progressed. Battlefields became littered with brass shell casings allowing soldiers to use them to create souvenirs by engraving them with the details of battles, inscribing them as ‘souvenir of the war’ or merely shaping them into vases to be kept as decorative mementoes. The term "Trench Art" actually originates from a WWI-era French publication, which illustrated objects made from military equipment or spent war materials by “artisanat de tranchées” (craftsmen of the trenches). This practice truly flourished during the first World War.
|Other examples of trench art shells from the same era.|
I am happy you came along on my journey to discover some of the history of trench art.
I will be offering my fall inspired trench art shells at our Brocante sale later this month.
Thank you for reading and Happy Hunting!
*Link to 1918 NewsReel is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWlnzO4ilIw