We have recently acquired a painting by Jan Josef Horemans the Elder. The picture shows two men with Crossbow equipment. I would be very interested to know if you might have any further information on the Crossbows of the period, which might help with dating of the picture. The painting is signed ‘J Horemans’, but the date is illegible, and is either 1720 or 1750. I wonder also if you know whether the subjects might be engaged in Crossbow practice, perhaps as part of a militia or the Dutch army.
That is indeed an interesting painting. I am afraid that dating the picture more accurately on the basis of the depicted crossbows is not possible. The crossbows are both of a type that was in use during the whole of the 18th century. They are known as Target crossbows or (in German) Schuetzenarmbrust or (in Dutch) Doelkruisboog, or voetboog (That is Footbow). The string is wound tight with a so called English Windlass, the instrument that is hung over the stock of the crossbow that is carried on the shoulder of the person on the right. ‘English’ refers to where this system of winding was supposed to be invented. Crossbows of this type were mainly in use in the Low countries. They were specifically used by local ‘schutterijen’ (militia) but for targetshooting (sporting) not in war practice. The crossbow was not used in war anymore from the first half of the 16th century on.
Enclosed you find pictures and entries on the target crossbows with English windlass that are in the Legermuseum collection. These are scans from the catalogue ‘Crossbows in the Royal Netherlands Army Museum’ that was published in 2007. Also a line-drawing that indicates how the winding system with the English windlass works and that also explains why this type of crossbow was called Voetboog.
Boek: Sensfelder, Jens, Stevens, Harm, Crossbows in the Royal Netherlands Army Museum : with a list of names and marks of European crossbow (2007)
Het boek is in te zien in het CIC, catalogusnr HBD R 056-0015, en tevens te koop in de webshop: