Crossbows with bows made from steel or horn and sinew were so powerful that they had to be loaded, or spanned, using mechanical devices. This winder, which operates on the rack and pinion principle, is one of the most elaborately decorated examples of its type. It is struck with a mark consisting of a St. Andrew's cross and a fire steel, devices of the dukes of Burgundy that were later adopted by their successor, the future Emperor Maximilian I. The mark, combined with the richness of decoration, indicates that this winder probably came from Maximilian's personal armory.
Ex. coll.: Armory of Maximilian I (archduke of Austria, king of Germany from 1486, Holy Roman Emperor from 1508); private collection (anonymous), German (?) or Austria (?); [Galerie Fischer Auktionen, Lucerne]; Collection of Hans von Schulthess-Rechberg, Zurich; von Schulthess family, by descent.
Waffensaal des Schlosses Grafenegg, Herzog Viktor von Ratibor, II. Teil. Zurich, May 2, 1934. p. 20, lot 165.
Thomas, Bruno, and Ortwin Gamber. Katalog der Leibrüstkammer, I. Teil, Der Zeitraum von 500 bis 1530. Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1976. p. 207.
Breiding, Dirk H. A Deadly Art: European Crossbows, 1250–1850. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013. pp. 99–100, no. 31, ill.