Trench art model of a lighthouse. The tapering tower of the lighthouse is cleverly made of brass artillery shell incised with lines to create a brick pattern. The artillery shell is set within a round brass stepped base, and is surmounted by a platform with a railing, a red-painted cylinder representing the light, and a conical copper roof, incised with two concentric lines. The shell is stamped on the bottom, abraded but mostly legible, and corresponds to inscriptions that can be found on other 40 mm M25 shells. It is also inscribed with a munitions lot number 303, as well as “L.A. 1944,” indicating the date of manufacture. As such, the lighthouse was probably made during or shortly after the end of World War II, perhaps by a member of the armed forces.
The term “trench art” encompasses a wide range of military crafts produced during wartime by deployed soldiers, though the term also includes items relating to military efforts made by others during or after the war. Military personnel adopted trench art crafts to pass the time while deployed or as a hobby/business after retirement. The items were often made as commemorative souvenirs or trophies for personnel use, trade, or sale. Trench art items made in the battlefield, or by prisoners of war, are generally more simple and primitive, sometimes considered folk art, reflecting limited access to tools and materials.
Originally “trench art” referred to art made in the notorious trenches of World War I and most often still is used in reference to decorative arts with primary components made from parts of military ammunitions and weapons, such as brass or copper artillery or mortar shells or casings (with additional fabricated parts of metal to complete them). Trench art decorative arts can also be made from, or supplemented with, other materials, such as natural animal shells or other found objects available in the field to military personnel.
Trench art decorative arts are often decorated with information or insignias for the military division that the solider belonged to. Sometimes they incorporate details of specific important battles in text, as well as illustrations such as applicable maps, aircraft, battleships, etc. These decorations are often engraved on metal shell casings, or sometimes painted. Popular decorative art forms from World War I and World War II include aircraft and tanks. Fabricated utilitarian objects include mugs, lamps, and picture frames. Painted souvenirs include helmets and sea shells.
Stamped beneath base: 40MM M25/ LOT 303/ L.A. 1944
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light wear, oxidation, abrasions, minor dents.
Kimball, Jane A. “Trench Art of the Great War and Related Souvenirs.” 1989, 2005. Online at: Trench Art: An Illustrated History. http://www.trenchart.org/ (14 December 2011).