These magnificent pistols were made prior to 1804, the date when Boutet's son, Pierre-Nicholas, joined his father at the Versailles Manufactory. Though of traditional box lock, turn off barrel, folding trigger pocket pistol design, they transcend all other similar pistols in their execution and consummate mastery of wood carving, inlay, engraving, polish, artistry and use of mythological symbols. General Napoleon Bonaparte's conquest of Egypt in 1798 made the Sphinx an essential symbol in French Empire art and it is possible that these pistols were commissioned by the Directory to commemorate this event and presented to one of the generals who participated. Research in the Versailles records at the Metropolitan Museum or the Musee de l'Armee may reveal the identity of the intended recipient. Nicholas Noel Boutet is universally regarded as the greatest artist in the history of firearms and these pistols are proof of this as they are true works of art in pistol form. The engraving is exquisitely rendered and of a quality equal to anything by the Brown Brothers or Creative Art only they are two centuries earlier. As with all of the finest pairs, each pistol has different engraving, one with a dog and antlers, urns with fruit, and a mythical head of a harvest deity, and the other a rooster and a horned devil. The trigger plates each feature the same beautiful draped goddess but in different poses, framed standing on urns. Pistols are signed in full on underside of breeches "Boutet Directeur Artiste" and on top of frames "Manufact Versailles". All screws are finely engraved as are the push on safeties. The conversion to percussion was executed by William Parker. This is documented in the book “Review of 162 Antique Arms and Pertinent Objects” by R. Held on pages 108-109, and the pistols are pictured. The pair also had a plaque in the past identifying the conversion work by Parker. Though the metalwork of these pistols is of the finest quality it is the woodwork of the butts that sets them apart from other Boutets, even the grand double cased pair made for Napoleon in the Musee de l'Armee which have flat gold inlaid Sphinxes. Boutet's woodcarving is always the best quality but his use of Grenoble walnut, inlaid with ebony, and overlaid with high raised relief carved polished boxwood is of the greatest rarity. Each pistol stock is a superb wood sculpture with relief Sphinxes, caduceus, swords, lyre, and the Masonic all seeing eye in polished boxwood. The Sphinxes on both pistols are posed in different positions as on only the very finest decorated pairs. The pistols are cased in their original upright casing with the original barrel wrench. A similar upright casing is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A cased set of Boutets in the Hermitage, Tassasuk figure 319, have boxwood and ebony inlaid butts though not nearly as magnificent and elaborate as on this pair. All firearms and swords by Boutet whether simply military arms or the most magnificent Imperial presentation pieces exhibit extraordinary quality and attention to the most minute detail throughout. Boutet's employment of mixed carved woods on pistol stocks is an artistic innovation unique to the Versailles studios and these pistols are among the very finest examples known.
Extremely fine. The pistol exhibits considerable bright original polish with some staining appearance with a crisp engraving. The grip is excellent with a few minor handling marks, some very slight pieces that were carefully spliced, possibly when they were converted by Parker, and one tiny sliver absent. The woodcarving is excellent and is mostly as sharp and crisp as the day the pistols left the Versailles workshops more than two hundred years ago. Mechanically excellent. The accessories are very fine.
As described in "A" with a few variations. The frame is engraved with a face of a mythical figure on the left side and a rooster on the right side. Notice that the floral pattern is also different than the floral engraving found on "A". The trigger is engraved with a different version of a classically styled figure of a woman. Although the right side of the grip retains the image of a griffin as found in "A", the left side differs from "A" as it has a carved lamassu (an Assyrian deity with a lion's body, eagle's wings, and human's head). The classical symbols on the outside edge of the grip are also different. The variations of the two pistols complement each other extremely well and are the signs of a true pair.
Extremely fine. The pistol retains much of its original bright polish with only minor staining. The grip is excellent with a few minor handling marks, some very slight pieces that were carefully spliced, possibly when they were converted by Parker, and one scroll piece absent on the right. The woodcarving is excellent and is mostly as sharp and crisp as the day the pistols left the Versailles workshops more than two hundred years ago. The case is in fine original condition throughout as well.
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