The Wallace Collection

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Flint-lock gun with ramrod
  • Flint-lock gun with ramrod
  • Nicolas Noël Boutet (1761 - 1833)
  • Versailles, France
  • c. 1800 - c. 1809
  • Steel, silver, gold, walnut, ebony, whale-bone and copper alloy, blued, damascened, engraved and chiselled
  • Length: 137 cm, overall
    Length: 97.5 cm, barrel
    Width: 1.6 cm, calibre
    Weight: 2.62 kg
  • Maker's mark: Boutet mark
    Inscription: 'Boutet Directeur Artiste Manufre. A Versailles'
    Inscription: 'Boutet Directeur Artiste Manufre. A Versailles'
    Stamp: Marks denoting 1st standard silver, medium excise and the maker
    Stamp: Probably the Paris restricted warranty mark, stamped twice.
  • A1128
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Flint-lock gun, the barrel octagonal at the breech, then round, with a narrow plane on top running to the foresight. Surface blued and inlaid at the breech in gold; on the top plane is an obelisk wreathed in garlands and a trophy of arms, on the facets on either side are smoking urns and trophies. In front of this is applied a large, shallow, silver backsight, beyond which the gold inlay ends in a splay of clouds and rays of light. The silver foresight is also surrounded by gold ornament, and at the muzzle are acanthus leaves and a crossed club and quiver. At the breech are stamped the marks of the maker, Boutet, and along the left side of the barrel, partly covered by the stock in engraved:

    Boutet Directeur Artiste Manufre, a Versailles

    The false breech of bright steel is engraved with scrolls and the mask of a satyr.

    The entire lock is of bright polished steel, save for the steel-spring and safety-catch button, which are blued. Lock-plate encrusted in gold with a hound and a fox standing over a dead pheasant. On the cock, also in gold, a terminal figure blowing a horn, on the steel a fox caught in a trap, and there is further gold decoration in the form of scrolls on the top jaw of the cock and pan-cover. The lock-plate on either side of the steel-spring is engraved:

    Boutet Directeur Artiste Manufre. a Versailles

    Stock of walnut delicately carved in relief with foliage and floral ornament. The mounts of silver are chiselled with ornament in relief, the groundwork matt and gilt. The heel-plate finial along the top of the butt is chased with a classical trophy of arms and two broad, silver bands bordering the heel-plate are ornamented with an animated frieze of hunting scenes with figures in classical dress. The plate on the left side which takes the place of a screw-plate (the lockscrews are concealed) is chased with similar hunting scenes in low relief. The underside of the grip is of ebony carved in bold relief with an owl with its tail continued in acanthus scrolls. The trigger-guard is ornamented in relief with a Medusa head and a globe, and instruments emblematic of Science and Art below, and on the finial is a standing figure of Diana. Inside the bow are stamped marks denoting 1st standard silver, medium excise, and the maker, who is the same as that of A1127. The scutcheon-plate has the initial C surmounted by a crown in blue and black enamel. At the ramrod socket is a medallion with a portrait bust of Kind Charles IV of Spain, supported by amorini. The ramrod pipes are formed as bundles of fasces. A small mark which is probably the Paris restricted warranty mark (petite garantie) is stamped on the heel-plate (twice), trigger-guard and ramrod socket. Whale-bone ramrod with silver tip and threaded brass ferrule.

    French (Versailles), about 1805.

    Provenance: King Charles IV of Spain; : this, or A1129, was presumably lot 989 in the sale of the collection of Charles Spencer Ricketts, Christie's, 13-20 June 1867, bought by Wallace for £41 (marked catalogue in the archives of the Wallace Collection).

    This gun bears a very close resemblance to A1129, and they might be regarded as a pair, but for the fact that the scutcheon-plates and ramrod sockets of A1128 bear the cypher of Charles IV of Spain and his portrait medallion, whereas A1129 has the arms of Spain as borne by Charles's supplanter, Joseph Bonaparte with his monogram. The Versailles manufactory produced large quantities of armes de luxe, the decoration of which was under the personal control of Boutet, who, in the course of time, evolved a certain number of stock patterns, some of which were repeated many times. The mounts of A1128 and A1129 are, for example, similar to those of a Boutet rifle in the possession of Prince Osten-Sacken, which, together with two pistols, was exhibited in the Pavillon de la Chasse at the Exposition Universelle at Paris in 1900. It is therefore possible that the similarity of these two weapons may be merely a coincidence. A1128 may have formed part of the gift of weapons from the Versailles manufactory sent to Charles by the French government in 1803. This included six guns mounted in silver (besides several gold-mounted pieces). In respect of A1129 it is perhaps permissible to conjecture that on Joseph's elevation to the throne, he took one of Charles's guns and had his own cyphers substituted.

    A very similar gun, apparently part of the same set as A1128, is in the Royal Armouries, inv. no. XII. 1278; it also bears the cypher of Charles IV in enamel.
    Kennard, 'Un cadeau pour I'Espagne', Gazette des armes, no. 29, July-August 1975, pp. 36-9.

    The set to which A1128 and 1129 belong originally contained three guns and a pair of pistols all mounted in gold, and six 'fusils simples garnis en argent, fond damasquiné, composition de la plus grande richesse, sujet et attributs analogues à cette puissance', the whole costing 130, 000 fr. (MS. in the Musée de l'Armée, Paris, published in 'Manufacture Impériale d' Armes de Versailles année 1800', Bulletin de la Sociéte Amis du Musée de l' Armee, no. 25, 1927, pp. 28-57, specifically on p. 46). They are among armes de luxe made by order of Bonaparte as 1st Consul, An X (September 1802-September 1803). The gold-mounted arms of this garniture may be those referred to by A. L. F. Schaumann, a War Commissary of Hanoverian birth serving in Wellington's army in the Peninsula. Describing the booty taken from the French after Vittoria he wrote, 'Some infantry showed me some priceless sporting guns inlaid with gold which had belonged to King Joseph …' (Schaumann, On the road with Wellington, 1924, p. 383).

    The matching gun in the Royal Armouries is numbered 1 on all its parts (Exhibited Treasures of the Tower, 1982-3, no. 80, repr. in cat.).