This pistol was manufactured under the direction of Nicolas-Noel Boutet (1761-1833) at Versailles around 1800. Boutet was trained by his father, Noel Boutet, a royal gunsmith. When he married the daughter of his father's partner in 1788, he claimed his father-in-law's title as gunmaker-in-ordinary to King Louis XVI. He was made the technical director of the newly established military arms factory at Versailles in 1792 and then the head director in 1798. After the establishment of the workshop for artistic arms or "armes de luxe" was established in 1794 under his direction, some of the most magnificent artistic firearms and swords ever crafted flowed from Versailles. While highly ornate, these arms were also functionally superior and featured the latest improvements. They are truly the crème de la crème. Napoleon was so impressed by Boutet's work that he granted him a concession for 1800-1818. He is quite justly considered one of if not the finest gunmakers in French history, if not internationally. In "Decorated Firearms, 1540-1870 from the Collection of Clay P. Bedford" by Gusler and Lavin on page 52, Boutet is heralded as "Artistically. . .without a doubt the most important gunsmith of the nineteenth century." Boutet is believed to have used similar stock profiles as early as the 1780s and continued to employ this naturally pointing and well-fitting design throughout the remainder of his career on both officer's pistols and dueling pistols. The ornamentation is almost exclusively floral, and the furniture is iron. It certainly would have been worthy of presentation to a notable ally or military officer. The swamped octagon barrel has a delicate blade front sight at the muzzle flanked by gold bands with fine engraving, sharp multi-groove rifled bore, a fine notch rear sight at the breech, nearly full coverage floral, martial, punch dot, and border engraving patterns; ovoid gold vent liner, golden inlay and border designs at the breech end and muzzle, 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 near the center on top is a panel that appears to have "Boutet Directeur Artiste/Manufre a Versailles" as has been noted on other Boutet pistols of the period. Boutet continued to use this marking even after being made head director of the Versailles manufactory. Note for example, the "DIRECTEUR ARTISTE" markings on the right lock of the 1801 dated double barrel in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The flat beveled lock has "Manufre/a Versailles," (indicating this was the second pistol of a pair), a gold lined flash pan, frizzen spring roller, small step down and teat at the tail, and beveled edges. It is equipped with a single set trigger. The stock has extensive but tasteful carving along the forend including some floral designs, silver beads along the edges of the finely checkered wrist, and silver wire scroll and leaf designs inlaid on the sides of the butt..
Very fine with 95% of the vibrant original gilded finish contrasting beautifully with the textured brown body of the barrel which was originally blued, nearly all of the original gold lining in the flash pan, a fairly bright lock and upper tang with light patination and spotting, mottled gray patina on the trigger guard, smoother gray patina on most of the other iron furniture, and attractive aged patina on the silver accents. The stock is also very fine and has crisp checkering and carving, generally minor scratches and small dings throughout, a few slight nicks at the edges at the muzzle and at the rear lock screw washer, and smooth original finish. The set trigger needs some adjustments; otherwise, it is mechanically excellent. Overall a very fine example of the quality and beauty of the deluxe firearms produced under Boutet at Versailles during one of the most iconic and tumultuous eras in French history.
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