The Wallace Collection

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Flint-lock pistol with ramrod
  • Flint-lock pistol with ramrod
  • Nicolas Noël Boutet (1761 - 1833)
  • Versailles, France
  • c. 1810
  • Steel, gold, walnut wood, ebony, silver, wood and ivory, overlaid, encrusted, engraved and chiselled
  • Length: 40.7 cm, overall
    Length: 26.4 cm, barrel
    Width: 1.7 cm, calibre
    Weight: 0.91 kg
  • Inscription: 'Manufacture à Versailles'
    Inscription: 'Boutet Directeur Artiste'
    Proof mark: Boutet
    Inscription: 'Boutet Directeur Artiste'
  • A1219
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Flint-lock pistol, a pair with A1220. Octagonal barrel with matt blue surface lightly chiselled and overlaid in gold with a formal Empire design of vases, garlands and drapery. On the left side alongside the stock is engraved: Manufacture à Versailles, and on the right: Boutet Directeur Artiste. At the breech are stamped Boutet's proof marks, and another mark is stamped on the underside. Fore and backsights. Multi-grooved rifling. The vent is faced with an oval gold plaque. The false breech of bright steel is engraved with a may-pole and an armadillo (?).

    Lock of bright steel retaining the original burnish. Lock-plate encrusted in gold with a design of thunder-clouds and lightning, and the upper jaw of the cock with a caduceus. Gold-lined pan. The inner side of the lock-plate is engraved: Boutet Directeur Artiste.

    Stock of walnut with delicately-carved borders. The grip is inlaid with panels of ebony on either side and these in their turn are inlaid with gold plaques engraved with a pair of griffins supporting a wreath. There is a lozenge-shaped gold plaque engraved with two heads addorsed Janus-like, which is inlaid in front of the trigger-guard and two oval plaques of gold are inlaid on either side of the fore-end. The mounts are of oxidized silver chiselled in relief; the butt-cap with a classical helmet, the trigger-guard with the lion's skin and club of Hercules, and on the finial a trophy of arms, the ramrod socket with a Roman sword and shield, and a garland of flowers. All the mounts are stamped with a petite garantie mark. Wooden ramrod, with ivory tip capped with steel and a threaded brass ferrule.

    French (Versailles), about 1810.

    The mark of the petite garantie, or census, of a man’s head, is that in use between 1819 and 1838, when the pistol may have been stamped at a later date than that of its manufacture.

    The 'armadillo' on the false-breech is apparently an insect of some sort. The main-spring is attached to the tumbler by a link. There is an external bridle for the pan-cover. A tiny hare's head is struck on the butt-cap-the petite garantie for Paris from 1819 to 1838, indicating that A1219-20 were on the market during that period.

    Hayward, Art of the Gunmaker, II, p. 340, pI. 62a.

    The top mark is N. Støckel, no. a 97 (vol. I, p. 133). The left and central marks are not recorded by N. Støckel; the right-hand mark is N. Støckel, I, p. 224, no. a 3741, attributed to Jean Nicholas Le Clerk, Paris, 1764-88. The lowest mark also occurs on A1131 and is here discussed under that number. For the history of these pistols, see under A1131.

    At the end of the eighteenth century, France possessed the largest standing army in Europe. To keep it armed, state-owned factories such as those at Saint Etienne and Châtellerault produced thousands of firearms every year. France’s most famous arms manufactory was a comparative newcomer to this huge military industry. The Manufacture National de Versailles was set up in the grounds of the Palace of Versailles to produce not only military arms but also richly-decorated presentation pieces. Nicholas-Noël Boutet (1761-1833) was appointed directeur-artiste of this establishment in 1792 and quickly built up an international reputation. Today he is regarded the last and greatest of the early modern artist-gunsmiths .

    Under Boutet the Versailles factory produced military firearms and edged weapons throughout the Napoleonic period and on into the Restoration. However Boutet was most famous for his luxury arms. As court gunsmith to Napoleon Bonaparte he brought gun-making in France to its artistic zenith. He specialised in cased pistols and rifles, often composed as complete sets. Created using the finest materials worked by the most skilful specialist workmen, these rich objects were usually mounted in solid silver, intricately cast and chased with Neoclassical ornament, the blued barrels studded with tiny gold stars and elaborate gold inlay at their breeches, the walnut stocks carved and inlaid with silver and gold. Although other centres such as Saint-Etienne also produced presentation weapons, Versailles was at this time undoubtedly the most highly-regarded centre for such work in Europe.