These incredible pistols were produced in 1854 and displayed at the Exposition Universelle of 1855 by Louis-Julien Gastinne-Renette (1812-1885) where his firm won a first class medal. Napoleon III wanted the fair to demonstrate French superiority over the British in the arts and industry following the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and one category in which the French regularly triumphed over their British counterparts was in highly ornate arms. Gastinne-Renette was Napoleon III's gunmaker and that of the Spanish Royal Family and was among the most renown makers of dueling and target pistols in the 19th century and continued to offer proper dueling training into the 20th century. The firm won multiple awards at the large French and international exhibitions of the 19th century. They were also loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Dr. Gerald Klaz collection (L.1991.70.4) and on display staring in October 1991 in the then newly renovated Arms & Armor Galleries. Notes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art state that the pair may be the set mentioned in the jury reports from the exposition which note "a magnificent cased pair of pistols with ornaments in iron and chiseled by Attarge (a specialist chiseler who worked for the leading gunmakers)." The cannon style barrels have small post front sights, silver floral scroll patterns with dark blue backgrounds, "Gastinne Renette Arqr De L'Empereur a Paris" on top, "Exposition Universelle 1855" on the bottom, ".1854. 865." under the stock, and "crown/GR" on the bottom of the breech plugs. The upper tangs have fixed notch rear sights. The locks, side plates, and trigger plates also have coordinating silver floral scroll patterns and blued backgrounds. The silver furniture includes floral scroll patterns and snarling lion faces on the spurred trigger guards and pommels. The stocks have interlaced relief scroll craving.
Very fine with 90% high polish period refinished blue finish, some slight oxidation, mostly bright silver with some areas of tarnish, crisp engraving and carving, and minor overall wear. Mechanically excellent.
Very fine with 90% plus high polish period refinished blue finish, some slight oxidation, mostly bright silver with some areas of tarnish, crisp engraving and carving, and minor overall wear. Mechanically excellent. This is a very attractive pair of elaborate exposition grade percussion pistols from one of France's most well-respected gunmakers, and they break from the general style seen on many pistols from the era. Provenance: Wallis & Wallis (November 4, 1975, front cover and lot 463) and Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.
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