The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Casket
  • Jean Conrad Tornier
  • Alsace, France
  • 1630
    nineteenth century (velvet lining and galloon)
  • Pine, walnut wood, mother-of-pearl, antler, copper alloy, crimson silk velvet, galloon, red and gold paint and steel, engraved, stained and inlaid
  • Object size: 36.1 x 63.3 x 30 cm
  • Inscription: 'fait en massuvaux, par Jean / Conrad Tornier, Monsteur d' / harquebisses. L'en 1630.' Engraved
  • A1345
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Of pine faced with walnut, rectangular in shape and closed at the top with a hinged lid. It stands upon a low base or plinth, and has two square, sunk, walnut panels in front, and a single sunk panel at either end. The lid is built up on stepped mouldings and has two square panels in the top. The back is of deal with two plain panels.

    The decoration consists of intricate designs of flowers, foliage, birds and monsters inlaid in white and coloured antler in the manner employed in the ornamentation of the stocks of contemporary firearms. The composition on the front panels consists of a central cluster of fruit and foliage from which radiate curving branches and tendrils, among which are small birds (hoopoes and parrots among others). The two panels on the lid are occupied by curled monsters terminating in cornucopias. The side panels have foliage and birds including wrens and kingfishers. The frame containing the front and side panels is ornamented with an inlay of tendrils and conventional foliage executed in brass wire, the spaces between being filled with small rosettes of mother-of-pearl. On the plinth are two marine monsters and a plaque of antler inscribed with the maker's signature:

    Fait en Massevaux par Jean Conrad Tornier Monsteur
    d'harquebisses L'en 1630

    The interior of the box is lined with crimson velvet and gold galoon. Shaped steel hinges decorated with modern red and gold paint.

    Alsatian, dated 1630.

    A.N. Kennard, Burlington Magazine, LXXVII (October, 1940) p. 127.

    Provenance: Mylius sale, Genoa, 1 and 3 Nov., 1879, lot 712; purchased by Sir Richard Wallace from Messrs. Durlacher, 2 May, 1881, for £300 cash (George Durlacher stated in 1926 that he and his brother, Alfred, had obtained it in Italy on their first tour in search of antiques).

    Apart from the fine quality of its decoration, this box is of prime importance for the information which it gives on the decoration of firearms of this period, very few of which are ever signed. Among exceptions are the craftsmen who put their initials on the stocks of guns chiselled by the Sadelers, such as Hieronymus Borstorffer (see A1090) and Adam Vischer. A. N. Kennard has pointed out (loc. cit. above) that the style of the decoration, with its use of brass wire, among other details, closely resembles the stocks of several firearms which can thus be attributed to Tornier's hand, namely, the wheel-lock rifle A1099 in this Collection, which is dated 1645, a wheel-lock gun, formerly in the collection of W. R. Hearst at St. Donat's Castle, and now in the Royal Armouries, and probably a third gun, which was sold in the Bourgeois sale, Cologne, 1904, lot 1006. The date of the rifle shows that Tornier's style had altered little in fifteen years.

    There was an almost exactly similar box, differing only in minor details and bearing the same inscription and date, in the sale of Eugen Felix of Liepzig, Cologne, 29 October, 1886, lot 1055. H. Schedelmann, in the Journal of the Arms and Armour Society (vol II, pp. 261-2 and pls. LXII-LXIV), has drawn attention to two more boxes which can be attributed to Tornier on grounds of style: one now in the Kienbush Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and another once in his own collection. See also an article in The Times, 21 January, 1961, for boxes of this kind. There is a smaller box in the Musée de Cluny, Paris (no. 21306), with decoration somewhat similar (illustrated in Lenk's Flintlåset, 1939, pl. 106), and the style of ornament is akin to some designs by an unknown hand in the Staatliche Kunstbibliothek, Berlin (Kat. Ornamentstichsammlung, pl. 147, no. 1014).

    Massevaux (German, Massmünster) is a town in Alsace, about fifteen kilometres from Belfort. Its geographical position explains the mixture of French and German styles in the decoration of A1345. The characteristics of gunstock decoration can also be traced in other contemporary articles, such as a tailor's measuring rule in the Wallace Collection, S295, and also in backgammon boards.

    This box was formerly catalogued in 1920 with the furniture and objects of art, inv. no. III 2.