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Pair of Pistols of King Louis XIV of France
  • Flint-lock pistol
  • Pair of Pistols of King Louis XIV of France
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • France
  • Date: c. 1659-60
  • Medium: Steel, gold, blued, walnut and wood, overlaid, engraved, blued and carved
  • Length: 59.7 cm, overall
  • Length: 41.4 cm, barrel
  • Width: 1.2 cm, calibre
  • Weight: 0.8 kg
  • Inv: A1209
  • Location: Arms and Armour IV
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Further Reading
  • Pair (with A1210) of flint-lock pistols. The barrel is octagonal at the breech, polygonal for a distance of two inches, and the remainder of round section. The surface is blued, powdered with gold fleurs-de-lys. At the breech is a representation in gold of Hercules in combat with the Nemean lion engraved and overlaid in gold, while at the beginning of the round section Hercules is depicted triumphant over the lion's dead body. Above the head of Hercules in each case is a royal crown. The lion's skin is again festooned round the muzzle. Introduced among the fleurs-de-lys is an inscription overlaid in gold:

    Belgicus ecce Leo Gallorum Alcide Subactus
    Gerionæ Hispano tristia fata parat
    Sunt nobis Lilia cordi

    ('Behold the Belgic lion overpowered by the Alcides of the Gauls presages disaster for the Spanish Geryon. The lilies are dear to our heart'.)

    Lock of bright steel. The lock-plate engraved with Hercules (Alcides) wrestling with the Nemean lion, and at the end of the plate with a trophy of arms, a bow and two clubs.

    Stock of dark walnut, its entire surface carved in bold relief. The butt is composed of the figures of Hercules and the lion, and the subject is four times repeated. Further forward, between the trigger-guard and the ramrod socket is Samson slaughtering the Philistines. On the fore-end are lions' masks and draped lions' skins. The trigger-guard of blued steel is overlaid in gold with fleurs-de-lys and crossed clubs. Single ramrod pipe overlaid with parallel gold lines. Wooden ramrod with a steel cap with three gold fleurs-de-lys overlaid on the end.

    A1210 differs from A1209 in the following particulars.

    The gold decoration at the breech of the barrel shows Hercules skinning the Lion, and midway along the barrel, wearing the skin. The inscription reads:

    Ut pellem Alcides devicti insigne Leonis
    Sic Ludovicus ouans (sic) Belgica signa gerit
    Sunt nobis Lilia cordi

    ('As Alcides sports the conquered lion's skin, so does Louis flaunt in triumph the Belgic triophies. The lilies are dear to our heart'.)

    The engraving on the lock-plate repeats the subject of Hercules skinning the Lion. The carved decoration of the stock is the same as that of the companion pistol.

    French, about 1660.

    Lenk, Flintlåset, 1939, pl. 50.

    There is no bridle either inside or outside the lock. There is no side-plate. The side nails pierce the lock-plate. The fact that the trigger of A1210 is marked 'III' seems to suggest that the garniture originally included a third gun, presumably a fowling-piece. Hayward, Art of the Gunmaker, I, pp. 150 and 293, pI. 50.

    These fine pistols were certainly made for King Louis XIV. The inscriptions on the barrels have previously been interpeted as referring to the conquest of the Spanish Netherlands in 1667-8 by a French army commanded by Turenne and the king in person, and M. Genissieux has suggested that they were a gift from the city of Lille to the king to commemorate its annexation to France. This would seem to be alluded to by a play upon the words Lille and Lilia. They bear no marks, as is often the case with works of art made for royalty.

    Alternatively, T. Lenk has suggested that these pistols were made to commemorate the capture of Dunkirk in 1658 and the Treaty of Paris in 1659, which fits the date of the weapons much better (Flintlåset, 1939, p. 70).