Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Battleships belching Smoke and Flame by Heyde?

This rather nice little set of Battleships has left me with something of a quandary. 

I think they are meant to be Pre-dreadnoughts (though I am no expert in ship design) and show two ships of the Imperial German Navy battling it out with a sole Frenchy off the coast of Denmark, as denoted by the lighthouse sporting the Danish flag.  But what does this group represent?  I don't think it could be a Franco Prussian War encounter because the ships look much later and anyway the Imperial Navy wasn't founded until 1871, also I can't find any mention of an action between German and French Naval forces in the North Sea in WW1. 

Who made them?  Well Haffner and Spenkuch seem to have been the the main providers of semi flat battleships but I've looked through several books on early German leads and the examples I've found by these companies don't look anything like the above.   The nearest thing I could find in terms of sculpting and paint style is by Heyde, which is curious because this firm mostly made it's vehicles, vessels and accessories 3D in tinplate.

A great set, I particularly like the ram on the French ship but the secondary armament firing from a cupola half way up the mask seems a bit incongruous to me, is this correct? 

8 comments:

  1. Mike Niederman24 July 2012 at 13:10

    A Google search for 'Spenkuch battleships' turned this up: http://www.vectis.co.uk/Page/ViewLot.aspx?name=Military%20Figures%20&%20Equipment|Military,%20Civilian%20Figures%20&%20Equipment&LotId=91539&Section=1054&Start=100

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  2. Hey Brian,
    Thanks for posting this ... very refreshing!
    Jeff

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  3. Nice find Mike, thanks for the link. They've certainly got the French ship there, only problem is Vectis aren't known for their expertise in this area and tend to call all flat ships "Spenkuch like" so I'm keeping the book open on this one for the moment.

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  4. Brian,

    Great find ! I am an avid collector of Spenkuch ships, too bad they're not easy to come by.

    http://castlesoftin.blogspot.com/2011/05/spenkuch-flat-ships.html

    As for what you show here, they certainly do appear to be Spenkuch, consistent in style and the basing with what I know of Spenkuch. Although, as you say, "Spenkuch" is a term used rather loosely to apply to all the flat ships as well as the semi-round Bleisoldaten.

    I assume that they are one-sided castings ? I'm almost certain that Berliner Zinnfiguren either owns Spenkuch flat warship molds, or acts as a 3rd party seller for whoever does.

    The other thing is your ships are unpainted except for the sea bases, smoke, flags and so on. That is also consistent with how BZ (or whoever they're acting as middle men for) sells "painted" examples, whereas the originals ca. 1900 are seen fully painted.

    Haven't seen these particular examples on the BZ site, they are quite lovely. The blazing guns on the crow's nest represent the small caliber quick fire guns, although of course a certain degree of artistic license is common with these ships - indeed part of the charm.

    Once again, congratulations on your acquistion.

    Best regards,
    Steve

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  5. Thanks for this Steve, sadly the ships aren't mine, merely observed at the London Show in June. The ships were engraved on both sides and were fully painted, the hulls being in various shades of grey to give some definition. The paint style is quite basic and looks a factory job but I couldn't say that for certain.

    They are quite large, the French one being about 12cm to the top of it's mast, my general impression was that they were much more crude in sculpting and casting than Spenkuch which have a much more artistic perspective.

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  6. Sorry, Brian. For some reason I assumed the ships were yours.

    I still believe they are Spenkuch designs and painted in a more modern style. Battleship gray didn't arrive upon the scene until ~1900. Were these orginal factory paint, they'd have white or black hulls and suitably colored uppper works.

    Regards,
    Steve

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  7. Brian,

    Found your ship, at least the one on the right with the French flag. The identical version is displayed on the Virtuelles Depot on the Nürnberg Spielzeugmuseum website Attributed to Babette Schweizer, ca. 1953. My guess is the actual designs are older (or at least accurate replicas of the 1900 style) but the paint job looks right for the date.

    Sadly, the Schweizerzinn firm appears to offer primarily civilians in historical and folk costume these days. No soldiers and aside from an appealing lake steamer, no ships either to be found on their site. But perhaps they do recast the old figures now and then. I may inquire, never hurts to ask.

    Regards,
    Steve

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  8. Thanks for this news Steve, I think you are right that Schweizer probably copied some older designs. I know they made some rather nice semi-round figures of the Austro Hungarian army, which I believe were their own original designs.

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