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Trench Art - WWI Shell Cases


Creating decorative objects from weapons of war as mementos or souvenirs is a practice that is probably as old as warfare itself. In recent years, this form of art has become highly collectible and is frequently called "Trench Art" because of the marvelous works created during WWI by soldiers passing long, fearful hours in the dangerous trenches along the front lines.

Brass shells or artillery cases (French: obus) such as those shown on these pages were a popular and plentiful base material used soldiers -both during the WWI and afterwards -- to create vases and othr objects. The Mementos often commemorate battles they fought in, remember fallen comrades, or celebrate the end of war and the arrival of peace. Many such pieces are done in a late art nouveau style.

Admiring these beautiful examples of craftsmanship today it is hard to remember that these were once devastating weapons of war.


Below: Destruction wrought by an obus
Photo from the French magazine
"Illustration" January 9, 1915



Trench Art Vase Decorated with Roses

Repoussé Brass

Repoussé - a method often used to create Trench Art vases -- is a technique of creating a design in relief by hammering or pushing the reverse side of a metal surface.


Above: Book Ends to the Great War
Trench art shell vases dated 1914 and 1920 - decorated with daisies

Two Trench Art Shell Vases decorated with the Cross of Lorraine (Croix de Lorraine) and sprigs of Holly (symbol of immortality)



Symbolism of the Cross of Lorraine
The Cross of Lorraine is the heraldic symbol of the Lorraine region of France, site of some of the most devastating battles of WWI. Originally it represented a reliquary containing a portion of the true cross and was used by the Dukes of Anjou.

During WWII, Charles de Gaulle chose the Cross of Lorraine as the symbol of the French resistance.

Since the early 20th Century the symbol has also been used to signify the battle against tuberculosis and other lung diseases - One explanation for this is the poison gas used during WWI, especially in the border regions between France and Germany such as Lorraine.





Above: King George tours a
munitions factory in
Great Britain during WWI.

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