Lot #255
Lot #257

Lot 256: Cased Pair of High Art Exhibition Pistols by Brun of Paris

Monumental Well-Documented Masterpieces of the International Exhibition of 1862: Cased Pair of High Art Gold and Silver Percussion Pistols by Brun of Paris with Extensive Sculpted Metalwork, Relief Carved Ebony Stocks, and Matching Accessories

Auction Date: September 11, 2020

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Lot 256: Cased Pair of High Art Exhibition Pistols by Brun of Paris

Monumental Well-Documented Masterpieces of the International Exhibition of 1862: Cased Pair of High Art Gold and Silver Percussion Pistols by Brun of Paris with Extensive Sculpted Metalwork, Relief Carved Ebony Stocks, and Matching Accessories

Auction Date: September 11, 2020

Estimated Price: $225,000 - $350,000
Price Realized:

A) Brun Exhibition Pistol

Manufacturer: French
Model: Percussion
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 45
Barrel: 9 5/8 inch octagon
Finish: gold/gray
Grip:
Stock: ebony
Item Views: 3873
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 224
Class: Antique
Description:

This breathtaking, extraordinary set was displayed at the International Exhibition of 1862, also known as The Great London Exposition, and we have identified one of the pistols as illustrated as item 4 in "Masterpieces of Industrial Art & Sculpture at the International Exhibition, 1862 Vol. 1" in Plate 6: "French Ornamented Fire-Arms." The description notes: "For 'Armes de luxe' Paris has long maintained supremacy over all competitors" and that Brun was among the Parisian gunmakers of worldwide note at the exhibition who obtained the highest commendation of the jury in Class 11. The jury wrote, "The sporting guns and pistols exhibited by the Paris makers are chiefly remarkable for the extreme artistic beauty of their decorations, which are designed and executed with the greatest skill and taste, the ornamental parts of the gun being highly valued in France, and in other countries, to which the French gunmakers export largely, especially South America." "Record of the International Exhibition, 1862" also states: "An adequate notice of the various specimens of artistic firearms in the French court would far exceed the limits of this article and would indeed come more properly under the department of fine arts. We can but enumerate the most remarkable - Brun (1303) exquisite pair of pistols in carved box, barrels elaborately chased with a gilt ground..." They go on to list a few other makers, but Brun is listed first, and that description is certainly fitting for this pair. The pair was released to Rock Island Auction from the Metropolitan Museum of Art where it was on loan as part of the impressive collection of Dr. Gerald Klaz (L.1991.70.6) and displayed in the then newly renovated Arms & Armor Galleries which reopened in October 1991. They noted: "These pistols were highly praised at the International Exhibition in London in 1862. The emphasis on natural forms of vegetation and animals, rather than on the style of the Gothic or Renaissance revival, became more common in the exhibitions of 1855 and 1862." Brun was active between 1849 and 1872 and collaborated with other world-class craftsmen to produce high art firearms that remain admired today and are among the finest artistic arms ever crafted. While unique, this pair is in keeping with other world class French "armes de luxe" displayed at international exhibitions. Note for example, the pinfire shotgun from Brun in the MET's collection (Accession Number: 1993.415) displayed five years after this pair at the Exposition Universelle of 1867. It too featured sculpted animal designs, gilded backgrounds, and complex relief patterns and was designed by goldsmiths François-Joseph-Louis Fannière (1822-1897) and François-Auguste Fannière (1818-1900) who executed the chiseled metal work and engraved by Jean-Claude Tissot (1811-1889). The metalwork on the current pair also has similarities to the Alfred Gauvain pistols also in the MET exhibited at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London in 1851 (Accession Number: 2013.513.1, .2 ). The designs on that pair were the work of Michel Liénard (1810-1870) and include sculpted reptiles and floral work like this pair. The pistols exhibit three-dimensional decoration from the muzzles to the pommels. As noted in the period sources, the work is exquisite. The barrels, locks, and furniture have gold backgrounds providing excellent contrast for the sculpted designs. The consistent motifs tying together the overall design on both the metal and ebony stocks are grape leaves. It is the opinion of this writer, based on years studying reptiles and the origin of this set, that the lizard on the pommel cap is either a European green lizard or jewelled lizard, two wall lizard species native to France. If you look closely at the lizards on the pommels, the arrow shaped heads have large scales, the bodies have finer scales, and they have long tails with bands, all characteristics matching these two related species. The artist clearly took their time to get the details correct. They have pieces of the surrounding foliage stems in their jaws. The species of the coiled, threatening snakes on the base of the hammers is less certain, but another species native to France seems likely, possibly an adder. The bi-pedal beasts on the nose of the locks present the only designs that differ between the two pistols. The first pistol has a guivre/wyvern, a winged beast, and has its tail coiled vertically. The second pistol's beast is wingless and has its tailed curled under, possibly a lindworm or sea serpent. With the hammers down, the snakes appear to be menacing the beasts. The trigger guards have a mammalian creature with long neck, short legs, and a long coiled tail, perhaps an artistic representation of a polecat. The barrels have bead front sights, "BRUN A PARIS" among the designs on the top flats, "BRUN/A PARIS" on the bottom of the barrels and on the breech hooks, and sunken star over "A B" mark on the bottom of the breech plugs. The locks have no external markings. The ebony stocks have grape leaf and vine carving along their whole lengths and fluting in the wrists. The case exterior has scroll floral engraved silver trim on the lid, raised relief carved scroll pattern carving with textured backgrounds, and a gryphon surrounding a gold bordered and engraved escutcheon. The interior has "Brun/a paris" in golden cord inside the lid, scroll engraved fittings (some silver), closely fit compartment containing the pistols and the coordinating accessories which have extensive engraving and carving in patterns that match the pistols. For example, the mallet and screwdriver/nipple wrench handle are ebony and carved with grape leaf patterns has plates on the ends with grape leaf engraving backed by gold and grape leaf carving on the sides. The plates on the head of the mallet have floral engraving backed by gold, and the screwdriver/nipple wrench shaft and tip, powder flask, bullet mold, measure, oiler, silver plated loading and cleaning rods, and compartment pull have coordinating floral engraving. The flask also features silver plating and designs of a lizard on one side and a snake with barbed tongue and tail on the other.

Rating Definition:

Excellent overall with the vast majority of the original gold backgrounds remaining, some fading in the trigger guard and pommel backgrounds, light aged patina on the silver on the trigger guard, mostly light gray patina on the balance, and minimal overall wear from age and storage. The engraving and carving remain crisp. Mechanically excellent., The case is fine and has some minor repairs and pieces absent from the lid and general minor storage wear. The accessories are very fine and have crisp engraving and carving, light storage wear, and some aged patina on the silver.



B) Brun Exhibition Pistol

Manufacturer: French
Model: Percussion
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 45
Barrel: 9 5/8 inch octagon
Finish: gold/gray/silver
Grip:
Stock: ebony
Item Views: 3873
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 224
Class: Antique
Description:

See "A."

Rating Definition:

Excellent overall as "A" with the vast majority of the original gold backgrounds remaining, some fading mainly in the trigger guard and pommel backgrounds, light aged patina on the silver on the trigger guard, mostly light gray patina on the balance, and minimal overall wear from age and storage. The engraving and carving remain crisp. Mechanically excellent. This is astonishing set from the International Exhibition of 1862 is certainly one of the most impressive cased pairs of pistols extant and will most certainly elevate interest in any museum or private collection of fine arms. Provenance: Sotheby's, March 22, 1972, lot 239 and the Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.



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