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Flint-lock holster pistol

Artist or maker:
Des Granges, I (active c 1660-1675)
barrel by B H (French, active c 1670)
Date:
c 1670
Place of production:
Paris, France
Medium:
iron, steel, walnut, silver, gold
Type of object:
holster pistols
Accession number:
3463.2

Commentary

Assembled by one of the most outstanding gunsmiths of the time, this pistol and its companion demonstrate the artistry of late 17th-century Paris. Des Granges made pistols for Kings as well as for wealthy residents of Paris and abroad, particularly Sweden. The lock-plates of each gun proudly bear his signature as well as allegorical figures of War and Fame.

Des Granges was responsible for making the intricate lock of the gun, fired by the flint-lock mechanism developed by French craftsmen in the early years of the 17th-century. This had the advantage of setting the mechanism at half or full-cock and used a flint held in the prominent jaws to light the powder. The barrel was made by a specialist craftsman, and another would have completed the elegant decoration of the stock. The gun would have been assembled by Des Granges, as was normal practice.

Des Granges was one of the craftsmen who made firearms for the splendid gift sent to Charles XI of Sweden by Louis XIV in 1673. This was at a time when France was keen to uphold a tentative alliance with the dominant Northern power. French pistols were found at the very heart of European politics.

The form of the pistol reflects the sophistication of French craftsmanship. Around 1670, stocks of finely-figured walnut had become very fashionable as Parisian gunmakers exploited the decorative possibilities of wood, rather than relying on horn inlay or ivory plaques. Such gracefully shaped butts and pommels are inlaid with fine silver wire in restrained patterns of animals, fruit and flowers. The dark steel butt-cap is counterfeit-damascened in gold with similar patterns, also matching the decoration on the barrel, made of blued-iron. The status of pistols as works of art developed by German craftsmen in the 16th-century, was fully exploited by Louis XIV's gunmakers.

Despite their beautiful qualities, the deadly properties of these weapons are also explored in the decoration. The allegorical figures of War and Fame engraved on the lock-plates are a call to fight and a celebratory trumpet of victory. On top of the barrel, a Roman soldier stands on a conquest of arms. Such symbolism echoes in a less elaborate way the complex martial and political messages found on a pair of pistols made for Louis XIV of France now in the Wallace Collection, London (A1209-10).

Phillippa Plock, 2013

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
143 x 490 x 48; 13 (calibre); 303 (ramrod); weight 750g.
Marks:
DES
GRĀGES
A
PARIS
Maker's mark
[on lock, on Fame's shield]

BH [crowned]
Maker's mark
[underneath of breech]

-
Manufacturer's mark
[underneath of breech across junction of breech and breech-plug]

+
Manufacturer's mark
[on lock, on back of plate]

History

Provenance:
Probably acquired by Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922) from J & S Goldschmidt, 20 Woodstock Street, New Bond Street, London, as '2 silber eingelegte Pistolen L. XIII £1000', 22 June 1910 (receipt AR097); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957

Bibliography

Bibliography

Claude Blair, Anthony Blunt; The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Arms, Armour and Base-Metalwork; Fribourg; Office du Livre; 1974; pp. 334-340, cat. no. 138, ill.
Nils Drejholt; Firearms of the Royal Armouries. I. from Gustav II Adolf to Charles XIII; Stockholm; Livrustkammaren (Stockholm); 1996; p. 163.

Indexed terms