The Wallace Collection

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Wheel-lock pistol with ramrod
  • Wheel-lock pistol with ramrod
  • Attributed to Jean le Bourgeois
  • France
  • c. 1610
  • Steel, gold, silver, walnut, copper alloy, wood and antler, blued, inlaid and gilded
  • Length: 70.3 cm, overall
    Length: 50.2 cm, barrel
    Width: 0.8 cm, calibre
    Weight: 1.13 kg
  • Maker's mark: 'I B'
    Inscription: 'D.C.'
    Stamp: '211'
  • A1176
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Wheel-lock pistol, with a long, slender barrel, octagonal at the breech, except for a circular gilt collar, four-fifths of an inch deep at the breech end; a similar collar is at the muzzle. The octagonal portion is inlaid in gold and silver with minute arabesque ornament. This decoration recurs at the muzzle, which is finished with a turned moulding. The rest of the surface is blued. Near the breech is stamped a maker's mark, I B, and a crossbow, attributed to Jean le Bourgeois of Lisieux. The flange at the base of the breech is incised with two sighting notches. Long breech-strap reaching to the butt, also inlaid with scrolls.

    The lock has an external wheel held in position by a single small bearing-plate formed as a pair of leaves terminating in an urn-shaped finial. This bearing-plate and a small, baluster-shaped bridle connecting the screw and spring of the cock are gilt, while the rest of the lock was formerly blued. Press-in pan cover release. The mechanism of the lock is of the French fashion with the mainspring secured inside the stock (see also A1179).

    Walnut stock of French form, inlaid with delicate interlacing ornamentation of brass and silver wire. On either side of the breech-strap in silver wire is the monogram D.C. In front of the trigger-guard is stamped the number 211. Oviform butt of steel terminated with gilt button, inlaid with arabesques in gold and silver, the ground blued. A narrow steel plate on the underside of the stock runs from the butt to a point in front of the trigger-guard which is attached to it; this and the trigger-guard are inlaid en suite with the rest. The shaped steel screw-plate, which also acts as a bearing for the wheel-pivot, typical of these French pieces, is similarly inlaid. Single ramrod pipe of gilt steel. Wooden ramrod with antler tip and gilt ferrule.

    French (Lisieux), about 1610.

    Lièvre, Musées et Collections, 2nd Series; Musée Graphique, pl. III.

    Provenance: from the Armoury of King Louis XIII.

    The pair to this pistol is in the German Historial Museum at Berlin. The number 211 stamped on the stock is that of the Inventaire Général du Mobilier de la Couronne (Guiffrey, 1886, II, p. 70) drawn up during the reign of Louis XIV, from 1663 onwards, where these pistols are described as: 'Une paire de pistolets à rouet de 26 puces, le canon de fort petit calibre couleur d'eau, rond sur le devant, à huit pans sur la derrière doré aux deux bouts; vis à vis la lumière il y a une petite arbaleste estampée entre un J et un B; le rouet tout uny sur un bois rouge enrichy de petits ornemens de marqueterie de cuivre et d' argent; le bout de la poignée de fer rond en forme d' oeuf'.
    Jean le Bourgeois, watchmaker and gunsmith of Lisieux, was the brother of Marin le Bourgeois and died in 1615. The attribution is based by Dr. T. Lenk on the following evidence: (1) a flint-lock gun in the Hermitage, Leningrad, signed: M. le Bourgeois à Lisieul, but without a mark; (2) a gun in the collection of Mr. W. G. Renwick with similar decoration on stock and barrel, and the mark I. B. and a crossbow (as on A1176) which is described under the no. 134 in the Royal Inventory as 'fait à Lisieux'. There is also a double-barrelled pistol from the M. Pauilhac's collection (ex-Engel-Gros sale, 1921, lot 218), now in the Musée de l' Armee, Paris (no. M.Po.862), with the same decoration and mark, which Dr. Lenk has identified with no. 238 in the Inventory. The latter makes no reference to Lisieux in this instance. Neither does it in the case of A1176, though the mark is carefully described. Jean and Marin le Bourgeois were working at Lisieux about this time, otherwise one might have assumed from its form that the mark was that of a craftsman with a surname like 'Balestrier'. Compare also the mark on A1110 above, where the initials appear to be P. B. and a crossbow. This also bears the number of the Royal Inventory, as does A1111 (Lenk, Konsthistorisk Tidskrift, 1934, p. 128; and Flintlåset, 1939, Chap. III).

    Compare the mark on a pair of pistols in the Royal Armouries (XII.722-3). For other examples of French firearms of this time, compare Stockholm (nos. 1576-7, dated 1603); Royal Armouries (XII. 1075 (1612)); Musée de l' Armée: M 95 (1613), M 102 (1616), M 131 (1627).

    Hayward, 'Further notes on the invention of the flintlock', in Held, Art, arms and armour, 1979, pp. 238-51, no. 6, fig. 17, attributed in the text to Jean Le Bourgeois, but accidentally captioned as being by Pierre. The barrel-maker's mark is Støckel, no. a 3216-93, Vol. I, p. 47, but it has been omitted from N. Støckel. A pair of pistols, apparently with the same mark, is in the Harding Collection in the Art Institute of Chicago (no. 1953; H. Lutiger, personal communication, 1982). Their wheel-locks are of German type.