The Wallace Collection

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Miniature wheel-lock pistol
  • Miniature wheel-lock pistol
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Germany
  • c. 1580
  • Steel, gold and copper, blued and engraved
  • Length: 5.5 cm, overall
    Length: 3.4 cm, barrel
    Width: 0.2 cm, calibre
    Weight: 0.014 kg
  • A1166
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Miniature wheel-lock pistol, one of a pair with A1165, the barrel, quadrangular at the breech.

    Lock with wheel enclosed in a domed cover. Pan and pan-cover of gilt copper. A small hole in the lock-plate was intended for the screw securing an applied ornament, as in the companion pistol. The mechanism is faithfully reproduced in miniature, and the lock is capable of being wound and fired.

    Stock of gilt copper engraved with simple scrollwork. S-shaped butt. The ramrod is missing. The end of the sear projects through an opening on the left side of the stock. The trigger passes through the trigger-guard to enable it to be moved by the finger.

    On the back of the stock is a steel, ring-headed screw, to which are attached two fine brass rings, probably the remains of a chain for suspension.

    The lock-plate retains an openwork ornament of copper gilt, pierced and engraved, secured by a screw. Beneath it are traces of the original blued surface.

    German, about 1580.

    Provenance: E. Juste (?) (petit modèle de pistolet à rouêt, 40 fr.; receipted bill, 5 September, 1865); Comte de Nieuwerkerke.

    Miniature pistols of this type are supposed to have been made by gunmakers' apprentices as trials of skill. Two similar miniature pistols (not a pair) are in the Victoria and Albert Museum (nos. M 356-7, 1864); no. 356-1864 is slightly smaller than no. 357-1864 (see Blair, Pistols of the World, 1968, pls. 746-7, notes on pp. 151-2). Another pair in the Musée de l' Armée (no. M 1697).
    A surprising number of these tiny wheel-lock pistols survive; among them one in the Treasury of the Teutonic Order in Vienna, which is thought to come from the Kunstkammer of the Grand Master Maximilian I (1590 -1618), the brother of the Emperor Rudolph II; a single pistol in the Historisches Museum, Basel, is recorded in the 1772 Inventory as 'Ein pistolen röhrlin en migniature' ; five are in the Museo Poldi-Pezzoli, Milan (1980 cat., nos. 1031, 1033, 1035-7); one was on the London Art Market in 1963 (Connoisseur, June 1963, advertisement); and one in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich (no. W1570; Waffen- und Kostümkunde, 1972, p. 73, no. 102). H. Schedelmann attributed the example in Vienna to Michael Mann of Nuremberg ( inv. no. A2223; Schedelmann, 1972, p. 54). See also Grancsay, 'Miniature firearms', American rifleman, July 1949, pp. 28-9, and Winant, Firearms Curiosa, 1955, pp. 41-5. A painting by Dirck Jacobsz of 1557 of F Company of the Amsterdam militia depicts minute harquebuses worn as badges on the upper arm (Amsterdam, Town Museum, no. A7344). It is possible that the miniature pistols served the same purpose for a troop of cavalry armed with pistols. Michael or Michel Mann was active in Nuremberg from about 1590 to about 1630 (N. Støckel, II, p. 751).