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Crafts and Trades

Ornamental hammer

Key data

dated 1649

Head of cast bronze, engraved

iron mount on the face

strips of engraved brass, handle of turned boxwood

length 38 cm

Inv. 1930.214.


To judge from its appearance and the engraved motifs the small hammer might have been used by a blacksmith. When shoeing a horse the nails were struck with the face; the forked pane was used to extract them. Images of blacksmith's tools such as pliers and hammer, shoes and nails are engraved on it. Other tools such as a wooden mallet and a circle cutter are more likely to have been used by saddlers. But the little hammer could hardly have been used as a craft tool, as it is too light and the material (bronze) too weak. The split pane is blunt and the shape of the notch is ill suited to pulling out nails. It is much more likely to have been part of the lore of lovers or married couples, and some of the engraved depictions support this interpretation. Both sides of the forked pane show a pair of lovers. Horseshoes have since ancient times been a popular sign of good luck. The cut out hearts in the brass strips are to be interpreted as love symbols. The hammer is not a practical tool but an instrument of the power of luck over love and marriage.

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Basel Historical Museum
Management & administration
Steinenberg 4
PO box
CH – 4001 Basel

Reception: +41 61 205 86 00

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