The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Crossbow
  • Attributed to François-Joachim Aubert (+1741)
  • France
  • c. 1720
  • Steel, gold and copper alloy, chiselled, etched, blued and gilded
  • Length: 72.9 cm
    Length: 43.2 cm, span of bow
    Weight: 2.23 kg
  • Inscription: 'AVBERT . A . LVNEVILLE'
  • A1051
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Crossbow, approximating to the prodd type, made entirely of steel. The bow is etched with running foliage and animals of the chase on a gilt ground. The string remains. Stock of rectangular section ending in a butt of flattened pear shape. The surface is chiselled in low relief with bands of scrollwork and strapwork interspersed with boar-hunting scenes, birds and animals. The decoration is blued on a gilt ground. Lying along the upper side of the stock is a permanently attached lever for bending the bow, the surface chiselled en suite. It is furnished with a catch at its forward end in the form of a couchant lion, whose hinged jaw seizes the string when the lever is pushed forward. The lever is then pulled back and held in place by a pivoted collar of gilt brass. The trigger acts on a bar situated beneath the lion. On the top of the stock hidden by the lever is an almost obliterated inscription:


    On the upper surface of the stock immediately behind the lever is a projection chiselled as a scrolled volute ending in a human-headed monster terminating in acanthus scrolls.

    Beyond the bow is a shallow grooved channel for the stone or bullet, about four inches long, the forward end finished with the figure of a harpy, chiselled with strapwork and gilt like the rest of the tiller. Curved trigger-guard ending in a pineapple finial.

    French, about 1720.

    Blackmore, Hunting weapons, 1971, pl.74; L'Art Ancien, IX, 1010.

    Provenance: Frédéric Spitzer.

    There is a prodd in the Musée de l' Armée, no. L 127, inscribed: Aubert A Paris, and dated 1738. This Aubert may have been a descendant of the maker of A1051.

    The trigger acts on a bar situated beneath the lion, opening its mouth for the cord. At the same time it operated a device (now missing) intended to keep the lion from rising up. The fact that the lion's mouth closes completely on the string, coupled with the position of the bow set well below the level of the mouth, and the fact that the bow is heavily canted, all suggest that this weapon was intended to shoot stones or pellets rather than bolts.
    H. Schedelmann (1972, p. 209) records a Francois Aubert, active from 1712 as weaponsmith to Duke Leopold Joseph of Lorraine (reigned 1697-1729). At the time of his death in 1741 he was described as weaponsmith to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francis Stephen of Lorraine; Neue Støckel, p. 35, however, gives his dates as 1710 to 1741. A third crossbow with the same signature as no. A1051 and also dated 1738 was on the London art market in 1972. Schedelmann (loc. cit.) lists a number of guns and pistols by this man in the Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer at Vienna.