The Miniature Firearms of David Kucer
by K. Corey Keeble
During the Summer of 1991, a loan exhibition of miniature firearms by Mr. David Kucer of Montreal was installed in the Arms and Armour Gallery of the Royal Ontario Museum's new European wing. The exhibition, which was so successful that it continued through the summer of 1992, features no fewer than 29 superbly crafted one-third scale reductions of historic European and American firearms, accurate in every detail, and accompanied by equally accurate cases and accessories to the same scale.
David Kucer's miniature firearms are well known among firearm cognoscenti, and have attracted the interest of private collectors and muse-ums in Europe and North America. Mr. Kucer has been invited to establish a collection of his minia-tures at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and in 1990, a special showing of his work was arranged at the Royal Armouries of H.M. Tower of London, with a beautifully illustrated catalogue with text by Howard L. Blackmore and Terry Byrnes. The colour illustrations by Jeremy Hall in this book are reproduced by kind permission of Guy M. Wilson, Master, and the Trustees, of the Royal Armour-ies and the black/white with the assistance of Brian Allen of Studio V, Montrel. Most of the firearms in the Toronto exhibition were previously featured in the Royal Armouries display, though Mr. Kucer added two extra miniatures to the Toronto show which were not seen by London audiences; a perfectly scaled Thompson Sub-Machine Gun, and a Colt 08 semi- automatic pistol.
It is important to place David Kucer's work into an historical perspective. Miniature firearms were the invention of the Renaissance. Their appearance coincided with the acceptance by the aristocracy of the wheel-lock. Wheel-lock arms were complex and costly, their manufacture requiring highly specialized and advanced technical skills. What was true of full scale firearms was equally true of miniature wheel-lock guns which were made in the 1500s and early 1600s. Miniature firearms were the most extreme test of the abilities of the virtuoso metal-smiths. They equalled in their demands upon the abilities of their makers the most intricate and delicate achievements of goldsmiths and jewellers. In addition, they were an extension of Late Renaissance and Mannerist fascination with small scale works of art such as the bronze statuette, plaquette, and medal.
In his notes for the catalogue of the Kucer exhibition at the Royal Armouries of H.M. Tower of London, Howard L. Blackmore refers to Michael Mann of Augsburg (he died c.1630), who made both miniature caskets and miniature firearms. For artists like him, the careful making of miniature arms was an extension of a whole, complex field of decorative arts and applied technology. There was in a sense no real separation of art and science; they were part of the same phenomenon of human development.
It is appropriate that in the Royal Ontario Museum, David Kucer's miniature firearms were put on display contiguous to masterpieces of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque silver and goldsmiths' work, to which they are in no way inferior.