A bronze Lela swivel cannon
The ‘Lantaka’ or better called ‘Lela’ is a swivel cannon used on board of merchant vessels in the Nusantara archipel. They vary in size, small examples are called ‘Rentaka’ or ‘Lantaka’ while larger examples are called ‘Lela’ or ‘Cetbang’. The earliest types were made of bronze or iron and had a breech loading mechanism. After a while the Dutch and Portugese started to produce the cannons to trade for spices and textile. Later on, local foundries began to produce their own examples in Java and Brunei.
Dutch East Indies, Probably North Sumatra – 17th to 19th century.
Materials: Bronze,Wood (oak)
The origin of the ‘Lantaka’ has its roots in the Mongol invasion of Java in 1293. The Mongol invaders used a typical breech loading technique, which was copied soon by the Javanese. After the arrival of the Portugese and the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C) traders, the cannons were influenced by the European muzzle loading models. The first foundries who produced the ‘Lantaka’ were founded in Mallaca (Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula). After a while the Dutch and Portugese perceived that these cannons were not only used for defense, but also as status symbol and used as dowry. The size of the cannon resembles the importance of the owner. Often these cannons were used as dowry during wedding ceremonies and even during headhunting campaigns. This resulted in a significant manufacture of these bronze cannons in The Netherlands and Portugal as exchange for spices, textile and other raw materials. Soon in Java, Mallaca, the Philippines and later on even in Brunei the foundries started to produce their own.
A quite a-typical large example. The bronze casted barrel is provided with a hollow socket decorated with a cascable base ring ending with a floral rocaille motif. The touchhole is accompanied with two vertical sights. The trunnions are held in a bronze casted swivel (Cagak) which is placed in a wooden mount. The swivel is decorated on both sides with embossed lotus flowers. The reinforced ring in the center is decorated in rocaille motifs aswel. The barrel ends with two rings looping into a wider muzzle swell decorated with lotus petals and a square sight. Close to the touchhole is a decorative embossed stylistic flower in relief.
For this type, the term ‘Lela’ is more accurate then ‘Lantaka’ as being a middle sized gun which was mounted on the rail of a vessel. Larger examples were mounted on gun carriage and were locally called ‘Cetbang’. Several dimensions and calibers are know. Most cannonballs were made of stone, carved from rocks found near the rivers. Although the larger examples were also able to shoot shrapnels for a more efficient effect on closer range.
Despite the fact most examples are dated between 1600 and 1850, I personally believe this example dates from the 18th century. This because of the rocaille inspired decoration which was popular in the 18th century in The Netherlands. The strong patina confirms comparable age.
Condition: Very good, a good dark patina with traces of oxidation. Good intact example. Mounted on a modern stand for display.
The display is made of oak beams painted in vermiljoen, a type of historical paint which was used in the 17th and 18th century on cannon mounts and ship interiors.
Note: Shipping methods need to be discussed.
Barrel length: 121cm
Bore dimension: 40mm
Swivel height: 23.5cm
Wooden base: 50 x 30 x 24cm
Barrel weight: 30.8kg
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