Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1316: Pair of Gold Mounted Boutet Officer's Flintlock Pistols

Auction Date: June 6, 2020

Sublime and Immensely Historic, Fresh and Well-Documented, Pair of Gold Mounted Nicolas-Noel Boutet Masterpiece French Empire Officer's Flintlock Pistols Presented to Contre-Amiral Cesar-Joseph Bourayne, Baron de l'Empire

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $300,000 - $550,000

A) Boutet Flintlock Pistol

Manufacturer: Boutet
Model: flintlock
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 62
Barrel: 10 3/8 inch semi-octagon
Finish: gold/blue
Grip:
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 6276
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 208
Class: Antique
Description:

These masterpiece Napoleonic French pistols were presented to French naval officer Cesar-Joseph Bourayne (1768-1817) and have his coat of arms engraved on the gold escutcheons inset in the wrists of the pistol stocks. They were presented by the merchants of the Ile de France due to his success in defeating the British H.M.S. Laurel which was blockading the island. As documented in "Biographie maritime: ou Notices historiques..." from 1835, the case which has been lost to time read: "Le commerce de l Ile de France à monsieur Bourayne capitaine de vaisseau 22 septembre 1808" (The traders of the Ile de France to Mr. Bourayne captain of the ship September 22, 1808). Bourayne was born in Brest and began his naval career when he was just 13 in 1781 during the American Revolution and served onboard the ship of the line Auguste under the command of Bougainville and was present at the Battle of Fort Royal, the Battle of the Chesapeake (The Battle of Virginia Capes), the Battle of Yorktown, the Battle of St. Kitts and the Battle of the Saintes, and traveled much of the globe throughout his thirty six year naval career. He was promoted to Captaine de fregate on March 21, 1796; Captaine de vaisseau 2nd class on September 24, 1803; made a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur on February 5, 1804; promoted to an Commandeur of the Legion d'Honneur in 1807, and elevated to "Baron de l'Empire" in 1811 by Napoleon. After the restoration of the French monarchy, King Louis XVIII made him a Chevalier of the Ordre Royal et Militaire de Saint-Louis in 1814. He rose to the rank of Contre-Amiral (equivalent of a Rear Admiral) in 1815 and was the Prefect of Brest during Napoleon’s return during the Hundred Days in 1815. While the Captaine of the 40-gun frigate Canonniere (previously the Minerve) in 1806, Bourayne sailed to Isle de France (Mauritius) and then patrolled the Indian Ocean where he engaged H.M.S. Tremendous and H.M.S. Hindostan in action on April 21, 1806, off the coast of South Africa. Having suffered damage during this engagement, he escaped to Manilla in the Spanish controlled Philippines. After repairs, Bourayne was sent across the Pacific on behalf of the Governor of the Philippines to retrieve funds and supplies from Acapulco in New Spain (Mexico), leaving Manilla on April 19, 1807, and reaching Acapulco on July 21 of that year. The Canonniere was the first French ship to cross the Pacific in sixteen years. The Canonniere began the return voyage on October 23, and the retrieval of the three million piastres and supplies is credited with saving the Spanish colony from bankruptcy. He was offered a large reward which he declined as he considered himself to simply have fulfilled his duty. Bourayne returned to the Isle de France on July 13, 1808, where he captured the 22-gun frigate H.M.S. Laurel off of Port Napoleon on September 12 of that year. The Laurel had stopped at the Isle de France to release French ladies that had been captured aboard a ship taken as a prize by the British. According to family tradition and the 1835 source noted above, Bourayne was presented these pistols by merchants from the Isle de France in 1808 in relation to his victory over the Laurel. The Canonniere and Laurel then jointly captured the British merchant corvette Discovery on January 18, 1809. He was himself captured on February 3, 1810, near Belle Ile whilst a passenger on his return journey to France aboard the decommissioned Canonniere (which had been renamed Confiance) and remained a prisoner of war in England until the end of hostilities in 1814. He died on active service in Brest in 1817. Contre-Amiral Cesar-Joseph Bourayne, Baron de l'Empire spent thirty six years sailing and fighting in Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific Ocean, the Philippine Sea, South China Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. An impressive archive containing copies of original French records relating to Bourayne are included. Among the documents are details of his service and promotions, pension records, and more. A very similar pair of pistols with some minor differences in decoration primarily to the locks from the Walter J. Charnley Collection are retained in the collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society and identified as "commissioned by Napoleon and presented to Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Von Krusemarck" around May 1802. These magnificent pistols were crafted at the state arms factory at Versailles under the direction of Directeur Artiste Nicolas-Noel Boutet (1761-1833), gunmaker to both King Louis XVI and Napoleon and one of the greatest "de luxe" arms makers in world history. Flintlock arms by Boutet are some of the most valuable in the world and understandable so; every detail on these pistols is highly refined down to the precision of the lock mortise inletting and the highly detailed engraving on the delicate gold inlays which feature a complex array of complimentary designs mainly executed on gold. The visible portions of the swamped and finely rifled barrels are nearly entirely covered in gold and feature floral and meander/key patterns along with a lightning motif on top (relating to Jupiter). Raised gold ornamentation also extends to the locks which have a lightning and winged column design on the top jaws and a staff flanked by quivers of arrow on the frizzens. The stocks have extensive gold inlays and gold wire in a variety of classical designs including fasces, floral patterns, and sea shell motifs, and the furniture is also gold and features extensive relief designs including a mask of Neptune and marine motifs on the tendril pommel caps, a turban with three ostrich feathers and a crescent moon on the trigger guard finials along with Ottoman style arms and colors on the bows. The wrist escutcheons bear a coronet over a escutcheon with an anchor at the top middle and three crescent moons separated by a chevron (the Bourayne coat of arms). Post front sights are fitted near the muzzles, and the breeches have dished rear sights. The highly refined locks have gold lined rainproof pans. The bottom of the barrels have "Boutet Directeur Artiste Manufacture a Versailles" along with "BC," "N B," "NB" (intertwined), "L C," and "DB" makers' and inspectors' marks, and the inside of the fire blued locks have "Manufacture/Versailles" (A) and "Boutet/Directeur Artiste" (B). The back side of the gold side plates have a "star/JM" goldsmith's mark and there is a "ca" inside one (A). The same goldsmith's mark is noted on the Boutet garniture in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and on view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 375 (Accession No. 1970.179.1a-q). These pistols were last offered for sale publicly by Christie's on Wednesday, December 18th, 1974 as property of the Bourayne family where they realized £32,400. Includes a lined and fitted glass top display case with a brass plaque inside with an inscription similar to the inscription described above. A street in Brest bears his name, as does a bay and port of the island of Huahine in French Polynesia. Bourayne is one of very few sailors to have been raised to nobility and to have been created Baron by Napoleon. Certainly a man of deeds not words.

Rating Definition:

Very fine with bright gold and distinct designs throughout, the finish aged to a dark brown in the backgrounds on the barrel, mottled gray patina on the bottom of the barrel, 85% plus bright niter blue on the lock, nearly all of the niter blue on the wedges and trigger remaining, minimal striking wear on the frizzen, some minor marks and scratches from handling and storage on the metal and wood, and mechanically excellent lock. Ramrod body has been modified (chipped the entire length) to fit in stock. The case is poor.



B) Boutet Flintlock Pistol

Manufacturer: Boutet
Model: flintlock
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 62
Barrel: 10 3/8 inch semi-octagon
Finish: gold/blue
Grip:
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 6276
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 208
Class: Antique
Description:

See "A."

Rating Definition:

Very fine and in matching condition with the other pistol with a better ramrod which has minimal wear. The trigger guard bow is detached at the rear. This is an absolutely gorgeous pair of highly artistic French flintlock pistols finely crafted by the artisans of the state arms factory at Versailles under Nicolas-Noel Boutet. Their connection to a naval commander during the Napoleonic Wars certainly adds to their romance and appeal. Provenance: The Property of Baron De Bourayne, Christie's, London, December 18, 1974, lot 210; and the Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.



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