The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Wheel-lock pistol
  • Wheel-lock pistol
  • La Fonteyne
  • Monaco, France
  • 1645
  • Copper alloy, gold, silver, steel, copper, antler, wood and horn, engraved and gilded.
  • Length: 36.8 cm, overall
    Weight: 0.445 kg
  • Inscription: 'Faict a Mourgues La Fonteyne Inventeur 1645'
  • A1182
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Wheel-lock pistol, with an octagonal brass barrel, engraved throughout its length and gilt. Among the decoration of foliage and trophies are to be found small figures in the costume of about 1640. Here the background is cut away and the pattern stands out in low, flat relief. Midway along the barrel a silver plate in the form of a mask and drum, has been applied, and at the breech are applied three silver figures, possibly the representation of Christ in the Temple. The foresight is integral with the barrel. The barrel is attached to the stock by a screw underneath, situated in the ramrod groove. A threaded hole at the muzzle-end would seem to have been intended for a similar screw. This suggests that the present horn fore-end cap may be a replacement, as it is not pierced to correspond.

    The mechanism of the lock is unusual. There is an external wheel secured in the centre by a round-headed screw. The main-spring takes the form of a coil-spring which is wound by a key inserted through an aperture in the left side of the stock immediately over the squared end of the wheel-spindle. There are sears of normal type, and the spring of the cock is mounted within. The lock-plate of brass decorated with a design of entwined flowers and foliage, cut in slight relief. On the wheel, the surface of which is slightly sunk to receive it, is a circular plate of thin brass pierced with a rosette-shaped pattern of budding flowers. The lock-plate has bevelled edges, and on the lower is engraved the inscription: Faict a Mourgues par La Fonteyne Inventeur, 1645. The cock is fashioned of copper-gilt in the form of a monster with open jaws, fitted with a steel ring-headed screw to secure the stone.

    The stock is of French fashion, the grip carved with longitudinal panels containing small human figures piqué and outlined in silver wire. Other figures representing the Holy Family are inlaid in engraved antler. Inlaid scrollwork of silver wire on the underside of the stock. Behind the barrel is applied a male figure in gilt brass wearing a classical breastplate, and a plumed hat. There is a similar figure applied underneath the stock in front of the trigger-guard, and on the left side of the stock is a third figure, robed, also of gilt brass, into which is cut the hole for the winding key. The butt is shaped as a helmet with pierced barred visor. The upper portion opens at the back on a hinge, revealing a compass in the interior. When closed this lid is secured by a small hook-and-eye. There are two ramrod pipes formed as open scrolls in gilt copper. Trigger-guard also of gilt copper pierced and engraved with foliage. Immediately behind the trigger is pivoted a small lever of gilt brass, probably intended as a safety-catch. Wooden ramrod with dark horn tip, probably not the original.

    French, probably Monaco, dated 1645.

    L' Art Ancien, V, 587; Musée Rétrospectif, 1865, no. 2008.

    Provenance: Frédéric Spitzer.

    A pistol with the same maker's name and date was exhibited by F. Spitzer in the Musée Rétrospectif, Paris, in 1865 (no. 2008), and is probably identical with no. A1182.

    Instead of a barrel-tang there is a short spur which fits into the wood of the stock immediately behind the breech. A bar projects horizontally from the inner face of the lock-plate across the cavity in the stock. A vertical screw passing through the end of this bar secures the lock to the stock. The hole for the winding-key (spanner), cut in the brass plate on the left side of the stock, is presumably later, since this plate can be pivoted to reveal the key-hole. The small lever behind the trigger acts as a safety-catch by locking the trigger in the forward position. In addition to a compass there is a sundial, but its gnomon is missing.

    Hayward, The art of the gunmaker, I, 1962, p. 137; Blair, Pollard's history of firearms, 1983, pl. 41.

    According to J. F. Hayward (loc. cit.), Morgues is an old name for Monaco. The Christian name of La Fonteyne is not known. He signed a pair of pistols, bearing the Medici arms, now in the Army Museum, Prague, Fai a Mouges, par La Fonteyne 1642 (Hoff, 1969,1, fig. 91). N. Støckel, I, p. 72, dates him about 1640-60. P. Jarlier considers that 'Mourgues' refers to Morges, a small town in the Canton de Vaud on the lake of Geneva, about 7 miles west of Lausanne (Répertoire, col. 155). Hayward (loc. cit.) suggested that the figures on the stock might represent Christ presented to St. Simeon. This system of lock is the one invented probably in 1634 by Pierre Bergier, clock-maker and inventor of Grenoble (Hayward, op. cit. pp. 135-8).