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Auction Date: December 3, 2016

Lot 1360: Cased Pair of Exhibition Quality Nicolas Noel Boutet Pistols

Sold for Cased Pair of Exhibition Quality Nicolas Noel Boutet Pistols
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A) Nicolas Boutet Flintlock Pistol
Estimated Price: $150,000 - $240,000
Item Views 378 Bid Activity Average
Serial #Cased Pair of Exhibition Quality Nicolas Noel Boutet Pistols ManufacturerBoutet ModelFlintlock
TypePistol Gauge42 Catalog Page202
Barrel11 3/4 Inch Octagon FinishBlue/bright/gold Inlaid Grip
Stockrelief carved walnut ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionThis is a historic example of a cased pair of exhibition quality flintlock pistols manufactured by famed French gunsmith Nicolas Noël Boutet of Versailles and Paris (1761-1833), circa 1795. According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nicholas Noël Boutet "was named directeur-artiste of the newly formed Versailles Arms Manufactory in 1792. While the Versailles factory was the principal producer of regulation weapons for the French armies, Boutet was also charged with creating richly decorated arms for presentation to military heroes and foreign heads of state." His name will forever be linked to Versailles Arms Manufactory for he created some of the best standard, luxury and honor arms offered to the dignitaries, the notables and leaders of other countries of his day. This cased pair of pistols showcases his master craftsmanship. The rifled and slightly swamped octagon barrel is profusely inlaid with gold stars on a matte blue background. At the muzzle is a gold and engraved garland of flowers, and at the breech are gold and engraved urns, garlands and proofs ("CB," "NB," and "LC"). The top barrel flat is signed "Boutet Directeur Artiste." The touch hole is lined in gold. The barrel tang is engraved. The action features a chiseled engraved hammer and a roller on the frizzen spring. The lock plate is signed "BOUTET/DIRECTEUR." The trigger guard and pinecone finial feature chiseled work. Equipped with fixed sights and a set trigger. The highly figured full length stock features beautiful and well executed deep relief carvings and fine checkering. A border of leaves follows the lines of the barrel, and a twisted rope pattern follows the lines of the ramrod groove. Floral work appears on the forend tip and around the flats. The underside of the stock has a carving depicting a classical female figure. The grip area is finely checkered and features a dot border and contrasting profile of Mercury inside an oval. The flared butt is outlined in contrasting fruits and foliage. The back of the grip has ebony diamond inlays accented with silver wire inlay. The butt has a chiseled floral blossom polished steel cap. The ramrod pipes are polished steel. The mahogany veneer case has brass hardware and green wool lining featuring ribbon running along the outlines of the compartments. The case holds the following accessories: two picks, ramrod, powder measure/bullet starter, cleaning rod, cleaning rod with brass attachment, two mallets, brass and horn powder flask, bullet mold and screwdriver. In the included 1988 Christie's catalog the provenance of these pistols is provided: "By tradition to have been made for General Paul Francois Jean Nicolas De Barras (1755 to 1829)." Barras was one of the most powerful members of the French Directoire (1795 to 1799) during the French Revolution (1789 to 1799). The catalog listing further states that the pistols were "possibly given by [Barras'] wife to Alexandre Rousselin Corbeau de Saint-Albin, a close friend and confidant, then passed down in the Saint-Albin family and were known as 'Les Pistolets de Barras.'" Included photocopies of a 1974 Armes Anciennes catalog states the aforementioned provenance and adds the ownership history was provided by the Saint-Albin family. Alexandre Rousselin Corbeau de Saint-Albin was a French politician who supported the ideas of the French Revolution, was secretary general in the Directoire and continued to defend liberal principles under the Bourbon Restoration. Paul Barras started his military career at an early age. At the age of 16 he entered the regiment of Languedoc as a gentleman cadet. By 1776, he was serving in French India where he participated in the defense of the city of Pondicherry before it fell to the British on 18 October 1778. He later returned to the region while serving in the fleet commanded by Admiral Pierre Andre de Suffren. In 1783, he returned to France, living a life of leisure in obscurity where he may have remained if not for the French Revolution. Disenchanted with the monarchy, the French Revolution gave Barras a new purpose. He joined the Jacobin Club (a radical democratic organization formed during the French Revolution which is largely held responsible for the Reign of Terror), and in September 1892, he was elected as a deputy to the National Convention. Among his first duties was to supervise the French Army in Italy. He led a successful campaign in Toulo where he defeated anti-Jacobin forces and met future Emperor of the French Napoleon Bonaparte. Barras' rise to prominence came during the Thermidorian Reaction of 27 July 1794. Acting as one of the key figures in the overthrow of Jacobin leader Maximilien Robespierre, Barras emerged as commander of the Army of the Interior. Adopted in 1795, a five member committee called the Directoire was established in an effort to lessen the risk of another dictatorship. Rigging the election allowed Barras to become the most powerful of the directors that controlled the French Republic. Assigned to reestablish law and order, Barras was influential in the appointment of Napoleon to succeed him as the commander of the Army of the Interior. The two men orchestrated a violent defense of the regime against a pro-royalist insurrection. Barras also introduced Napoleon to his future wife and Empress Josephine de Beauharnais, one of Barras' past mistresses. Napoleon recalled, "Barras did me a service by advising me to marry Josephine. He assured me that she belonged to both the old and the new society, and that this fact would bring me more support; that her house was the best in Paris, and would rid me of my Corsican name; finally that through this marriage I should become quite French." Barras served as a witness to the marriage; no relatives were invited to the ceremony. Napoleon's success as a military commander provided the Directoire with stability but also with a rising star in French politics. In November 1799, Napoleon led a coupe against the Directoire and met little resistance from a government that was rapidly in decline. Barras' alleged public and private indiscretions are often cited as a major reason for the collapse of the Directoire. Barras was placed under constant surveillance and was exiled to Brussels and later to Rome due to Napoleon's suspicion of his conspiratorial activities. Outliving the Napoleon regime, Barras was allowed to return to his Chaillot estate after the Second Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1815. Research accumulated by the consignor is included in a "book" case. This research comprises of the book "Napoleon" by Christophe Pincemaille, numerous photocopies of secondary sources related to the French Revolution, Napoleon and Barras, and a November 23, 1988 Christie's catalog, which is mentioned above.

ConditionExcellent. The barrel retains 95% plus of the matte blue finish showing limited handling marks. The remaining metal surfaces have a left in the white bright appearance. The stock is excellent showing a stress crack near a barrel wedge and some scattered minor handling marks. Mechanically excellent. The case is very good showing minor to moderate handling/storage marks, a few pieces of lost veneer on the refinished exterior and typical high spot wear on the lining. With the exception of the chipped and cracked powder horn, the accessories are fine.
B) Nicolas Boutet Flintlock Pistol
Serial #Nicolas Boutet Flintlock Pistol ManufacturerBoutet ModelFlintlock
TypePistol Gauge42 Catalog Page204
Barrel11 3/4 Inch Octagon FinishBlue/bright/gold Inlaid Grip
Stockrelief carved walnut ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionAs described in "A" but the lock plate is marked "MANUFre/VERSAILLES."

ConditionExcellent. The barrel retains 95% plus of the matte blue finish showing limited handling marks. The stock is excellent showing a stress crack near a barrel wedge and some scattered minor handling marks. The set trigger does not function, otherwise the action cycles.
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