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Auction Date: September 10, 2017

Lot 3124: Boutet Parisian Flintlock Dueling Pistols

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A) Boutet Dueling Pistol
Estimated Price: $90,000 - $150,000
Item Views 291 Bid Activity Average
Serial #Boutet Parisian Flintlock Dueling Pistols ManufacturerBoutet ModelFlintlock
TypePistol Gauge50 Catalog Page68
Barrel10 1/2 Inch Octagon FinishBlue/gold/solid Silver Grip
Stockraised relief carved waln ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionThese pistols were manufactured under the direction of Nicolas Noel Boutet at Versailles around 1800-1810 in the iconic French Empire style and were later upgraded by Jean André Prosper Henri Le Page after the Bourbon Restoration around the 1830s. The Le Pages are arguably Boutet's greatest rivals for the title of finest gunmaker in French history. Boutet (1761-1833) was trained by his father, a royal gunsmith, and secured his place in the upper echelon of French gunmakers by marrying the daughter of his father's partner which allowed him to become a gunmaker-in-ordinary to King Louis XVI in 1788. He became the artistic director of the arms factory at Versailles in 1792 and then the head director in 1798. Under his direction, some of the finest pieces of firearms art ever crafted flowed from Versailles. Napoleon was so impressed by his work that he granted a concession to Boutet for royal arms for 18 years. He worked in Paris after the Second Bourbon Restoration. Jean Le Page (1746-1834) trained under his uncle, Pierre Le Page, and became a master gunsmith in 1780. He took over the family's famous firearms business one year earlier. He was the inventor of the first fulminate priming system. Jean André Prosper Henri Le Page (1792-1854), his son, took over in 1822 and became gunmaker-in-ordinary of King Louis XVIII. Both the Le Pages and Boutet produced the crème de la crème of flintlock firearms for the French royal courts under the Bourbon kings, Napoleon and his allies, and national heroes and foreign dignitaries, and both firms were highly celebrated in their time and have remained renowned for their quality. At the time, they were essentially business rivals competing for the top tier of the firearms market. They are rightly considered the finest gunmakers in French history, if not internationally. The swamped octagon barrels have delicate blade front sights at the muzzle, finely rifled bores, fine notch rear sights at the breech, nearly full coverage floral, martial, punch dot, and border engraving patterns; dual gold bands at the muzzles, ovoid gold vent liners, golden inlay and border designs at the breech ends, "Le Page a Paris" on the upper left flats, "Arqr du Roi" on the upper right flat, a "BC" hallmark on the upper left flat (likely the controller's stamp), "BOUTET" hallmark on the upper flat, and an "LC" hallmark on the upper right (barrel maker Jean or Nicolas Le Clerc). The gold accents around the Le Page markings would have been added by Le Page. The frizzen springs are marked "Le Page arqer" on the bottoms and "du Roi" on the tops. The gold work on the lock may have been added or refreshed by Le Page. The underside of the locks are inscribed "Boutet/Directeur" (gun B) and "Manufre/Versailles" (gun A) in script and have script "y" markings on the back side of the pans. This is very unusual but absolutely correct. The pans are semi-waterproof, and the plate is slightly curved and has bevelled edges and are similar to other known Boutet dueling pistols. They have single set triggers. The ramrod pipes, stock inlays along the forends, side plates, trigger guards, toe inlays, and pommel caps are all engraved/cast silver. The same silver ramrod entry pipes and trigger guards were used on the other Boutet sets including the case pair on the face plate of Chapter II: Flintlock and Percussion Guns in "Rare & Beautiful Guns." The core accents throughout are a mix of Baroque floral motifs punctuated by martial motifs and classical Roman symbols, including: cavalry/dragoon helmets in gold on the lock and on the silver pommel cap, Roman gladius and shield on the entry pipe finial, a torch/burning fasces flanked by flags over a cuirass on the trigger guard finial, and a lion pelt on a club on the trigger guard (symbols associated with Hercules). Hercules was used as a symbol of the French monarchy under Old Bourbon regime and then as a symbol of the French Republic's triumph and strength. Some French propaganda connected Hercules to Napoleon himself. He is featured on the 1796 Millesimo-Dego medallion commissioned by Napoleon clubbing the Lernaean Hydra while a torch/burning fasces lays just behind him. During the Revolution, a statue of Hercules armed with a club and fasces and stepping on the Hydra was commissioned to commemorate the fall of Louis XVI and the power of the people over the monarchy. He also appears on currency during the French Republic. He is often portrayed wearing the pelt of the Nemean Lion. The fasces is also a classic Roman reference and was used a symbol of the strength of the French people through unity. The stocks have fine checkering bordered by silver pins, additional silver pin borders around the edge of the pommels, and fine floral Baroque raised relief carving that coordinates beautifully with the engraving patterns on the furniture and the silver stock inlays. Who owned these pistols originally and after they passed through the Le Page shop is not known, but high end Boutet dueling pistols are known to have been presented to French military officers, including presentations from Napoleon himself.

ConditionExtremely fine with 95% plus of the original gold. Most of the fading is on the edges of the barrel and the borders around the Le Page markings. The bright finished areas of the lock have mild gray patina. The blued portion of the barrel is mostly dark brown patina and has some slight oxidation. The excellent, extraordinary silver throughout has attractive aged patina. The engraving and most of the markings remain distinct. The raised relief carved stock is also extremely fine and has crisp checkering and carving, some minor marks and scratches, a slight hairline crack on the left side of the forend above the front ramrod thimble, and small nicks visible at the pommel. Mechanically excellent.
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B) Boutet Dueling Pistol
Serial #Boutet flintlock Pistol 50 ManufacturerBoutet ModelFlintlock
TypePistol Gauge50 Catalog Page68
Barrel10 1/2 Inch Octagon FinishBlue/gold/solid Silver Grip
Stockraised relief carved waln ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionSee A.

ConditionExtremely fine with 90% plus of the original gold. There is some slight flaking of the gold along the edges of the barrel. The balance of the barrel has dark brown patina and some light surface oxidation. The bright finished areas of the lock have light gray patina and some light spotting. The silver has attractive aged patina throughout. The engraving and majority of the markings remain distinct. The raised relief carved stock is also extremely fine and has crisp checkering and carving, some small nicks and scratches, and some minuscule chips at the edges. Mechanically excellent. These are absolutely stunning pieces of firearms art from the golden age of French firearms with work by two of the finest gunmakers.

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