Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Miniature Brass Cannons / Lantaka

These fine miniature bronze lantaka or cannons are in fine condition with obvious age and excellent patina.

Lantaka were a type of bronze swivel gun mounted on merchant vessels travelling the waterways of Malay Archipelago. Its use was greatest in precolonial South East Asia especially in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The earliest cannons of this form came from foundries in the Netherlands and Portugal. Initially, the Dutch and Portuguese traded cannons not only for spices and porcelain, but also for safe passage through otherwise potentially hostile waters. They came to be copied and localized by foundries in the Dutch East Indies and most particularly on Borneo, in what is now the Malaysian state of Sarawak and the sultanate of Brunei. These brass and bronze cannons were usually cast with stylized crocodile, lotus and bamboo shoot motifs.

Cannons were used to transmit messages. They were fired to mark births and weddings, to warn villages of impending attack or to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

All worked copper, brass and bronze had value and were used as trade items in early Borneo. Cannon were frequently part of the bride price demanded by the family of an exceptionally desirable bride or the dowry paid to the groom.

Many of the small cannon, often called personal cannon or hand cannon, had been received as honors and were kept and passed down in families, but in hard times they also served as a form of currency that could keep the family fed. As a recognized form of currency, cannon could be traded for rice, drums, canoes, tools, weapons, livestock, debts of honor, and even settlement of penalties for crimes ranging from the accidental death of a fellow villager to headhunting against another tribe.

Possession of such canons also became a store and show of wealth. They were used to decorate boats to demonstrate the importance of the boat owner. Also, they were given positions of prominent in long houses, again as a display of importance and wealth.

Many of the finest cannon were given out by the Sultans of Brunei as part of ceremonies (such as birthdays or weddings) of the many princes and princesses of the extended Royal family. Cannons were frequently presented to guests along with awards and titles, and were meant to guarantee the recipients allegiance to the Sultan.

Today, these guns can be found on virtually all of the islands of the Pacific Rim, but they are most commonly found in the Muslim areas of Indonesia and Malaysia. The largest collection is in Brunei, where it is now illegal to export them. Even in other countries, a museum export permit is usually required.

These cannon are now highly sought after by collectors, with some of the realized prices exceeding USD50,000 for a single gun. The more common guns can be bought for under $1,000.


Cannon 1 Length : 39cm

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Cannon 2 Length : 32cm

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Cannon 3 Length : 25cm

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Cannon 4 Length : 22.5cm

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Cannon 5 Length : 30cm

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