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Selling: September 11, 2015

Lot 228: French - Percussion

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Elaborate 1839 Exhibition Award Winning Joseph Falloise Signed, "Danse Macabre" Engraved and Gold and Silver Inlaid De Petigny Percussion Target Rifle
Estimated Price: $90,000 - $130,000
Serial #French - Percussion ManufacturerFrench ModelPercussion
TypeRifle Gauge65 Catalog Page84
Barrel36 1/2 Inch Octagon FinishBlue/casehardened Grip
Stockbriarwood ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionThis is simply the finest exhibition quality gold and silver inlaid percussion target rifle that Rock Island Auction Company has offered for sale. The firearm was showcased at the Exhibition of Products of French Industry in 1839 where it received the distinction of a "Mention Honorable." Francois-Jules de Petigny (1801-1858) of Soissons handcrafted the rifle. He and Evradrd-Latron restored the Maison de L'Arqubuse in 1833 and it remains to this day. The carbine was richly decorated by celebrated engraver Joseph Fallois (1812-1886) in a "Danse Macabre" tableau theme closely related in style to Guy Marchand's famous work from the 1490s. Fallois lived in Liege and Paris and also presented work at the famous 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. Part of his work from that event is now part of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Hyacinth Tourey shotgun he engraved for that exhibition is currently a centerpiece in a private American collection. 1839 was just a few years before the 500th anniversary of the Black Death in Europe. The heavy rifled Damascus steel barrel was forged by Parisian master gunsmith Louis Pincon and bears his stamp and punch. It is nearly covered in a floral scroll and panel scene etched engraving. The left and right barrel flats are 100% covered in a floral scroll engraving while the upper left and right barrel flats feature 30 engraved scenes; each scene depicts an effigy of Death visiting individuals of various positions. Each panel scene has a gold inlaid caption: on the left side are le chanoine, le bourgeois, l'astrologue, le prevost, l'abe, lecuyer, l'evesque, lechevalier, l'archevesque, le conestable, le patyriage, le roi, le cardinal, l'empereur, and le pape, and on the right side are l'ermite, le clerc, l'enfant, le cordelier, le laboureur, le cure, le medesin, le menestrier, l'usurier, l'advocat, le moyne, l'amoureux, le sergent, le chartreux, and le marchant. The top barrel flat (ahead of the rear sight) has "DE PETIGNY -EXPOSITION 1839. MENTION HONORABLE" in gold inlay followed by floral scroll engraving incorporating the three fates in panel scenes with gold inlaid accents. These scenes too have gold inlaid captions: Lachesis (determined the length of life), Atropos (chose the mechanism of death) and Clotho (spun the thread of human life). The scenes are followed by "POST MORTEM NIHIL EST" (Latin for "After death there is nothing") in gold inlay and inside an engraved banner. Behind the front sight is a gold and silver inlaid grotesque mask motif. Gold and silver inlaid wide geometric bands surround the muzzle. The rear barrel section is handsomely adorned with three gold, copper, and silver inlaid warriors placed on capitals and surmounted by gold garlands. The front of the muzzle has the engraved inscription "Memento Mori" (Latin: "remember [that you have] to die") above engraved crossbones. The engraved floral scrollwork extends to the breech plug and wide barrel tang with the barrel tang having the addition of a silver and gold inlaid skull and crossbones motif. A floral engraving on a gold highlighted background covers the lock plate and hammer. The carbine has a percussion target system consisting of a peep sight, adjustable rear sight, front sight and double set triggers. Mounted on a nicely figured and full length briarwood straight grip stock featuring fine multi-point checkering on the wrist and floral engraved Swiss type buttplate. The anatomic trigger guard is floral engraved; at the front is the Latin motto "QUOS TULI ATRA DIES/REDDIT AMICA JOCOS" which is the motto of the Maison de l'Arquebuse; the entrance to this building is on the trigger guard below the panoply of arms. At the rear is an Order of the Legion of Honour in gold and enamel. The stock has three barrel wedges, and each has a large engraved escutcheon featuring a pair of angels. The counter plate is that of engraved towers and soldiers with a gold inlaid "DP" monogram at the center. On the underside of the forearm, between the trigger guard and ramrod mouthpiece, is an exquisitely engraved very large overlay that depicts an effigy of Napoleon I (with epaulettes, orders, sword and buttons) featuring gold inlaid accents and underneath an eagle with the French Order of the Legion of Honour and a Garde Imperial soldier. An arrangement between the English and French settled in 1838 (when the gun was built and engraved) led to the return of Napoleon's remains to France in 1840. The Legion de Honneur was founded by Napoleon in 1802. The underside of the buttstock is an engraved overlay of a finely detailed musketeer holding a matchlock musket. The large ramrod pipes feature floral engraving, and the ramrod entry pipe has the gold inlaid marking of Joseph Falloise: "FALLOISE Gr Ir/1838." The wooden ramrod has a floral engraved metal tip. At L'Exposition des Produits de l'Industrie Francaise (Exhibition of French Industry Products) held in Paris from May 1 to July 31 1839, master craftsmen exhibited 3,381 pieces. The Exhibition can be viewed as the origin of the first world exhibition. For this target carbine, Monsieur Petigny de Soissons was awarded with the Mention Honorable "pour une carabine de tir richement ciselee et damasquinee" (for a richly carved and damascened carbine). At the show, it was commented that "the weapons of high luxury, enriched by all that the art of the engraver and damasquineur can provide more varied and more elegant, have been the result of work of a small number of exhibitors." This carbine definitely fits that description.

ConditionVery fine. The carbine has a smooth gray patina overall with strong traces of gold remaining on the hammer and lock plate. The stock is fine with a couple minor age cracks and some minor handling marks. The checkering is crisp overall. Mechanically fine. Truly a magnificent work of 19th century European firearm art that would be the center piece to any antique firearm collection! It is not often that a work of high level master craftsmanship is offered for sale, so do not miss out!
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SHIPPING CHARGES. All shipping charges must be paid by the successful bidder prior to delivery of the firearm. If Rock Island Auction (RIAC) is asked to ship the purchased lots, there will be a separate charge for such shipping. Shipping charges will be based upon what it costs RIAC to ship the purchased lots to the purchaser. All items must have shipping insurance; this insurance is mandatory. RIAC will not charge any labor charges for shipping. RIAC is not liable for any acts of omissions in packaging or shipping. Purchased lots handled by outside carriers or packers, including those RIAC may have recommended, may carry their own insurance and any claims for losses or damages should be addressed directly to the outside carriers or packers. RIAC will arrange for packing and shipping at RIAC’s earliest possible convenience. RIAC will attempt to ship as soon as possible; however, due to RIAC’s high volume of absentee bids, shipping can take up to two weeks after full payment is received. In the case of crating or any exceptional packaging, the purchaser will be charged RIAC’s cost from outside agents. Purchaser pays shipping, packing materials, and insurance charges. The shipping of any purchased items outside of the United States is hereby classified as “foreign export”. All foreign export is the sole responsibility of the purchaser.