The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Wheel-lock pistol with ramrod
  • Wheel-lock pistol with ramrod
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • France or Italy
  • c. 1600
  • Steel, gold and silver, inlaid and etched, once blued
  • Length: 80.8 cm, overall
    Length: 60.3 cm, barrel
    Width: 1 cm, calibre
    Weight: 2.34 kg
  • A1175
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Wheel-lock pistol, with a long, slender barrel, octagonal at the breech, decorated with a laureate trophy and small flowers inlaid with gold and silver.

    The ground was originally blued or otherwise darkened.

    The lock has an external wheel. There is a small bearing-plate for the wheel secured by two screws, and in default of a bridle inside the lock, the rear end of the wheel spindle passes through the steel stock opposite to the lock. The release button of the pan-cover catch is missing. The edge of the lock is ornamented with gold piqué and a silver line, and the cock, with etched foliage; the whole, like the barrel, was originally blued or blackened.

    The stock, curved on the underside to the shape of the lock-plate in the French fashion, is entirely of darkened steel with hexagonal barrel-shaped butt. It is decorated with trophies of arms, panels of arabesques, and palm and laurel branches in gold and silver inlay, originally on a darkened ground. The underside of the pan is gadrooned.

    The steel ramrod is a restoration. The trigger-guard is missing.

    French or possibly Italian (Florentine), about 1600.

    Lièvre, Musées et Collections; De Beaumont Catalogue, pl. 12.

    Provenance: A. Beurdeley (Un pistolet du XVIe siècle en fer avec damasquine en or et argent, a,1,900 fr.; receipted bill, 14 January, 1867); Comte de Nieuwerkerke.

    This pistol belongs to a distinct group of all-steel inlaid firearms represented by one in the Armeria Reale at Turin (no. N 17); another is in the Musée de l’Armée, Paris (no. M.Po.2845), which came from the cabinet of King Louis XIII and bears the French Royal Inventory number 227. There was a similar pair of pistols in the Spitzer Collection, Paris (sale cat., 1895, lot 377), later Bourgeois sale, Cologne, 1904, lot 1020; these are now in the Odescalchi Collection, Rome (inv. nos. 370 and 371; Carpegna, Firearms, 1975, no. 13). Similar decoration is also found on a match-lock gun formerly in the W. R. Hearst Collection, now in the Royal Armouries (XII.1548), where there is also a wheel-lock gun with mounts decorated in this manner (XII.1550) and on a boar-spear, also in the Royal Armouries (VII.81). Sir Guy Laking, in European Armour, IV, p. 288, compared the decoration of this pistol with a fine rapier in the Dino Collection (F 16), now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Laking also compared two pistols said to have been in the collection of the late Mr. Edward Litchfield, New York. However, no trace of the Lichfield pistols having been found, N. di Carpegna (loc. cit.) suggested that the pair later in the Odescalchi collection may have been meant. Laking also offered a comparison to the partizan of Henri IV at Windsor Castle (cat. no. 39); this piece is no longer considered to have anything to do with Henri IV (see Norman and Barne, 1980, p. 362). A single pistol of this type is in the Museo Lazaro Galdiano, Madrid (Carpegna, loc. cit.) and another in the Farnese armoury at Capodimonte (no. 2094; Hayward, Armes anciennes, VI, p. 125, pI. XXXVIII, Fig 2). A charging-spanner made in this fashion, bearing the device and motto of Maximilien de Bethune, duc de Sully (1560-1641), is in the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad (Z.O. no. 6306; Tarassuk, 1971, fig. 51). The Dino rapier, which bears on its pommel what may be the arms of the Roman family of Albani, is now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (no. 04.3.23; Norman and Barne, 1980, p. 328).

    Lièvre, Musées et collections, 2 Ser, pI. 30; Lièvre, Musée graphique (pI. 3), Lièvre, Collections celebres, pI. 84; Blair, in a review of N. di Carpegna, Armi da fuocodelta collezione Odescalchi, 1968, in The Connoisseur, 1969, CLVII, pp. 256-7.

    C. Blair (loc. cit.) suggested on the strength of an entry in the Medici Wardrobe accounts for 1638 that this type of pistol might just possibly have been made by Gaspara Mola, the goldsmith and medallist (1567-1640). He worked in Florence from 1609 to 1623.