Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1325: Neapolitan Miquelet Sporting Gun

Auction Date: September 11, 2021

Outstanding Documented Chiseled, Relief Carved, and Silver Mounted Neapolitan Miquelet Smoothbore Sporting Gun by Camerchioli, Matteo Fonzo, and Lupi Dated 1827

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $50,000 - $75,000

Outstanding Documented Chiseled, Relief Carved, and Silver Mounted Neapolitan Miquelet Smoothbore Sporting Gun by Camerchioli, Matteo Fonzo, and Lupi Dated 1827

Manufacturer: Italian
Model: Flintlock
Type: Musket
Gauge: 69
Barrel: 35 1/8 inch part octagon
Finish: brown/bright/silver
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1087
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 274
Class: Antique

At first glance, this miquelet appears to be Spanish in origin given the Madrid style stock, and it was identified as Spanish when it was featured on page 536 of "The William M. Locke Collection" by Frank Sellers and page 146 of the 1971 "Antique Arms Annual" in the article "William M. Locke and His Collection" by R.L. Wilson. The Italian and Spanish gunmakers had a lot of overlap in style in this period, but incredible chiseled steel is a feature strongly associated with the Italian masters, and this gun certainly has plenty of amazing metalwork. This incredibly ornate sporting gun has a sunken golden "M FONZO" maker's mark on the breech end of the barrel, and Matteo Fonzo of Naples appears to have been active from the late 1790s to the 1840s. Additionally, the inside of the lock is signed "CAMERCHIOLI" and dated "1827," and the inside of the bow is signed and dated "Lupi/incise/1827." Camerchioli's identity remains unknown, but former owner and renowned arms and art collector Peter Tillou indicated that Gaetano Lupi was a Neapolitan silversmith who died in 1852. The overall quality of the combined work is extraordinary, and this fine sporting gun certainly ranks among the finest of all Italian arms extant. It was attributed as produced for Carlo Filangieri, Prince of Satriano, Duke di Taormina (1784-1867) by Tillou. Filangieri's father, Gaetano Filangieri, Prince of Satriano, was a Neapolitan lawyer, art historian, and Enlightenment philosopher. Naples was the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The younger Filangieri was an accomplished soldier, military leader, statesman, and reformer. He was defensive of his fellow Neapolitans, and killed General Franches in a duel after the Frenchman insulted the Neapolitans. He fought under Napoleon and Joachim in the French and Neapolitan armies, inherited the title of Prince of Satriano in 1819, supported the Constitutionalists, commanded the Neapolitan army in 1831 at the request of King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, put down a rebellion in 1848 and 1849 and was therefore granted the title of Duke of Taormina, served as a governor of Sicily until 1855, and was briefly Prime Minister and Minister of War under Ferdinand II's successor, Francisco II. He was ordered to leave Naples and traveled to Marseilles and Florence. He died at his villa of San Giorgio a Cremano not far from Naples. The octagon to round barrel is nicely patterned Damascus and has a silver blade front sight, double wedding band transition, dished rear sight, and floral engraved tang. The two silver barrel bands have sculpted masks of the same face with varying expressions on the bottoms, pierced acanthus patterns on the sides, and rope patterns across the tops. The rear is followed by a silver sling swivel. The front band's mask has its eyes and mouth down turned as if flinching, and the rear has the eyes open and teeth clenched and bared suggesting anger. They may represent a man tense in preparation of firing his gun and flinching at its ignition or may represent Pluto given the other decoration. The silver trigger guard has floral patterns, a scene based on the sculpture "The Rape of Proserpina" by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (c. 1621-1622) showing Proserpina being abducted and taken to the Underworld by the Pluto in an oval panel on the bow, and a green-man mask at the rear of the grip extension. The lock is very ornate and has a graceful curving shape with beveled edges. The lyre shaped frizzen has a chiseled siren, possibly Parthenope. The battery face is serrated. The city of Naples was previously the colony Parthenope, named after her, after she and the other sirens were defeated by Orpheus. He defeated them by playing and singing better than the sirens and thus saved Jason's crew. Parthenope flung herself into the sea, and her body was said to have washed ashore and to have been buried in a tomb at the future site of Naples. The pan has acanthus fences, and the frizzen spring also has foliate and scroll accents and a roller. The mainspring has light engraving at the tips. The cock has a pierced, acanthus and floral bridle, an impressive spread wing eagle backed by foliate designs for a neck, and sculpted floral blues, a fluer-de-lis, and leaf patterns on the jaw. The lock plate itself has floral patterns engraved under the pan and a swan and foliage at the rear. The silver heel plate has foliate finial, an oval panel scene with Procris, a leashed dog, and a small winged figure on a podium with a torch in one hand and another small object in the other, "Procri" inscribed below the scene, floral border engraving on the back of the plate, a bloom engraved around the screw, and a floral finial. The tales of Procris and Cephalus, her husband, vary significantly, but they generally involve each of them being jealous and concerned about the fidelity of the other. In some version s of the myth, she was given the mythical dog Laelaps who never failed to catch its quarry and a javelin that never missed, by Artemis, both of them she gave to her husband as part of their reconciliation. While trying to spy on her husband when he was out hunting because she still worried of infidelity, he mistook her for a wild animal and killed her with the javelin. The winged figure may be Zephyr or Aura who were suspected by Procris to be the lover of Cephalus in various tellings. Even the smaller details that are out of sight are ornate. Note the silver trigger plate has an engraved border and a floral finial, and the trigger is also finely shaped and terminates in a scroll. The beautifully carved walnut stock has attractive molding along the forend and the fluted butt, a raised relief carved lion mask disgorging acanthus at the ramrod entry point, checkering in the grasping area, classical figures and floral patterns ahead of the side flats, a pair of seated classical figures pouring water or possibly wine on the left flat in a panel with a serrated background, domed silver grotesque masks serving as screw washers, a small cat above the floral carving at the rear of the side flats, floral blooms and acanthus on top around the barrel tang, an intricate relief and raised relief carved bust that appears to represent Neptune (note the small trident) or possibly Pluto, additional raised floral carving at the front of the butt incorporating a monkey on the right and a bird on the left, an alternating textured pattern along the bottom of the butt, and a sling swivel set in a silver floral bloom. The ramrod slides into an enclosed channel or tunnel rather than a usual open groove and is iron with a trumpet shaped head. Provenance: The Robert M. Lee Collection

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine. The designs on the steel and silver remain distinct, the silver exhibits attractive natural aged patina, the lock is mostly a light gray patina, and the barrel retains bright gold in the maker's mark and the majority of the brown finish and displays attractive Damascus twist patterns. The stock is also exceptionally fine and has distinct carving and checkering, smooth finish, light handling and storage marks, very faint repairs at the lock mortise, and attractive grain. Mechanically excellent. This Neapolitan sporting gun has exceptional artistry and beauty throughout, certainly would have been worthy of ownership by an influential Italian prince, and absolutely is worthy of being placed on prominent display within an exceptional antique arms collection or museum.

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