The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Cased flint-lock rifle with accessories
  • Cased flint-lock rifle with accessories
  • Nicolas Noël Boutet (1761 - 1833)
  • Versailles, France
  • c. 1805
  • Steel, gold, walnut, silver, whale-bone, ivory, morocco leather, velvet, horn and wood, inlaid, gilded, engraved and carved
  • Length: 102 cm, overall
    Length: 59.3 cm, barrel
    Width: 1.3 cm, calibre
    Weight: 3.61 kg
  • Maker's mark: Marks of the maker Boutet
    Stamp: '290'
    Stamp: 'Man. Vlles.'
    Inscription: 'BOUTET'
    Inscription: 'A VERSAILLES'
    Stamp: The first standard mark for silver made in the departments for the period 1798 - 1809
    Stamp: The poinçon de garantie for silver made in the Departments fom 1798 - 1809
    Maker's mark: 'A diamond-shaped punch, its long vertical axis, containing a pistol fesse-wise in the centre, its butt ot the dextor; above is the letter N and below it the letter B.
    Inscription: A Gothic R surmounted by an Imperial crown
    Inscription: 'MANUFACTURE IMPÉRIALE D'ARMES DE VERSIALLES ENTERPRISES BOUTET'
    Inscription: 'Boutet à Versilles Manufactre Impériale'
    Stamp: Diamond-shaped punch, its long axis vertical, containing an object consisting of a ball on which stands a tapering obelisk with a smaller ball at the top with tiny rays diverging from it, on the left side of the obelisk is the letter J, on the right is a B.
    Stamp: The mark of the Association des Orfèvres of 1793 - 4, a full-face woman's head and neck with a small capital letter P to her right in an oval punch.
  • A1126
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Double-barrelled flint-lock rifle, the barrels placed one above the other, each having a separate pan by a half-lock. One barrel is rifled with twelve grooves, for shooting large game while the other is smooth-bore for fowling and small game. Both barrels are of octagonal section with a matt blue surface inlaid with small gold stars. The muzzle and breach are gilt, the former engraved with thunder-clouds and lightning, the latter with oblong panels containing formal foliage and stamped with the marks of the maker, Boutet. On the right side of each barrel just above the stock is stamped the number 290, and on the underside: Man. Vlles. Silver fore-sights. The barrels are secured to the fore-end by two sliding pegs. The false breech is engraved with the figure of an ape, and a bird within a lozenge-shaped frame.

    The lock and pans are of bright, burnished steel retaining their original mirror-like surface. The lock-plate is engraved with a lion and ball, and the cock with a sea-monster. The upper jaw is missing and the upper part of the jaw-screw broken away. The steel is engraved with two winged monsters on either side of a vase and a similar creature encircles the screw securing the two plates on which the pan-covers and springs are mounted. The plate on one side is engraved BOUTET, and the other A VERSAILLES. Gold-lined pans. There is an external bridle for the pan-cover.

    Stock of walnut carved beneath the grip with a monster's head. The butt has a cheek-piece, the scrolled end forming a carved rosette. The mounts and decoration are outlined with rows of cut steel studs and the fore-ends and grip are studded with them to ensure a firm hold. The silver heel-plate has a finial along the top of the butt chiselled in high relief with a grotesque merman, and at the sides are winged monsters drinking from a bowl, the ground gilt. It is stamped with standard and excise marks and Boutet's own maker's mark. A silver plate on the left side, which takes the place of a screw-plate, is chiselled in low relief with lions playing with balls and an archer, the ground gilt. The trigger-guard is of steel engraved with a stag. At the base of the pillar is attached a curved steel bar into the end of which fits the tip of the steel for the lower barrel, thus preventing an accidental opening of the pan. There is a gold scutcheon-plate engraved with a Gothic N surmounted by an Imperial crown. Ramrod pipes of silver, that at the socket chased with a wolf, its foot caught in a trap; a plate which balances this on the opposite side has a seated hound. Whale-bone ramrod with ivory tip capped with steel and threaded brass ferrule. On the right side of the fore-end is a stud for attaching a sling, and on the lower part of the butt is a hole for a missing swivel.

    The silver marks on the butt-plate consist of a) the first standard mark (poinçon de litre) for silver made in the Departments for the period 1798-1809; b) the poinçon de garantie for silver made in the Departments, in this case, since it includes the number 88, Seine-Inferieure, for the same period (see S. Pyhrr, Arms and Armor Annual, I, pp. 266-74, fig. 9); and c) what is probably Boutet's personal mark, a diamond-shaped punch, its long axis vertical, containing a pistol fesse-wise in the centre, its butt to the dexter; above it is the letter N and below it the letter B.

    The original case of this gun has been preserved. It is covered with red straight-grained morocco leather and bears the inscription on the lid:

    'MANUFACTURE IMPÉRIALE D' ARMES DE VERSAILLES
    ENTERPRISE BOUTET.'

    The compartments within are lined with green velvet and contain a horn and power-flask with folding nozzle of silver, inscribed: 'Boutet á Versailles Manufactre Impériale', and hall-marked; two sling-swivels; oil-dropper; screw-driver; bullet mould; steel cleaning rod and worm for extracting charge; wooden mallet; two long and one short wooden rammers for forcing the ball into the rifling and inserting the charge of powder. (Also the missing top-jaw and broken jaw-screw, which have since been restored to the cock.)

    The maker's mark d) on the powder flask, which is unidentified, consists of a diamond-shaped punch, its long axis vertical, containing an object consisting of a ball on which stands a tapering obelisk with a smaller ball at the top with tiny rays diverging from it, on the left side of the obelisk is the letter J, on the right is a B; the other two marks are e) the petite garantie for the period 1798-1809, and f) the so-called mark of the Association des Orfèvres of 1793-4, that is a full-face woman's head and neck with a small capital letter P to her right, all in an oval punch. This last mark is recorded by E. Beuque as the mark introduced by the Goldsmiths of Paris in 1793 and used for one year only (Dictionnaire des poinçons officiels français, I, 1925, p. 16, no. 125). It is, however, certainly found on objects of later date. The three rammers consist of a short starting-rod, a loading-rod with an adjustable powder-measure, and a normal ramrod. The case also contains a sling-hook.

    French (Versailles), about 1805.

    Provenance: the Emperor Nicholas I of Russia.

    Although the history of this beautiful weapon is not recorded, the initial on the scutcheon-plate would denote the ownership of the Emperor Nicholas I and not Napoleon who always used a Roman and not a Gothic N as his cypher. The lions with their paws on balls appear to derive from a well-known antique type, of which examples are in the Naples Museum, in the Louvre and in the Loggia dei Lanzi at Florence. See also A1127. Napoleon's official gunmaker was Jean Lepage, Rue de la Loi, 950, Butte des Moulins, not Boutet.

    Nicolas Noël Boutet (1761-1833) is one of the great names in the history of gunmaking. In 1792 the Committee of Public Safety established the Manufacture d' Armes de Versailles under the Administrator of the District and Boutet as technical controller. He is best known, not so much for the service arms, including swords, which he produced for the Directoire and the Empire, but for the highly finished and richly decorated fowling-pieces and pistols intended for presentation, of which a number are represented here. He had to struggle against financial and other difficulties throughout most of his career, and the Versailles factory never recovered from pillaging by Prussian troops in 1815, though Boutet continued in business in Paris until 1831. His work can often be dated by the form of the signature which he varied, see A1127-8, 1130-1, 1219-22.

    Kennard, French pistols and sporting guns, 1972, pp. 50-1.