This fascinating shotgun was commissioned in St. Etienne for presentation to King Louis Philippe I , the last French King following the July Revolution in 1830. The relief cast silver lion figural hammers use the lion's mouths as the striking point and have "EXULTAVIT/UT GIGAS..." (short for Psalm 18: "He rejoices like a giant/strong man to run the way") on the left with the lion stepping on the body of the serpent that is coming up a log and "VICIT LEO/DE TRIBU JUDA..." (short for Revelation/Apocalypse 5:5: "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah [aka Jesus Christ], the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”) with the lion stepping on the head of the snake wrapped around a log. The wrist escutcheon has "DE CINERE VITA" (From ashes, life) and a phoenix emerging from a fire in gold inlay. The inside of the buttplate's door has "COURAGE!/PRINCE/QUE/NOUS AIMONS/1830" (Courage! Prince that we love. 1830), "LOUIS VINCET NOTAIRE" on the left edge and "VILLE-FRANCHE (RHONE)" on the right edge (probably an engraver from the Villefranche-sur-Saône commune in the Rhone department of France), and the compartment has a matching Damascus nipple wrench with container in the handle and another Damascus container with gold inlays on the lids. The edges of the lock and furniture have borders with floral blooms and alternating gold star and scroll designs. The fences on the bolsters and borders of the triggers are also gilt. The stock has a floral pattern "checkering" on the forend and elaborate raised relief carving of two entwined snakes facing a bird (likely a phoenix) perched on an oak branch and staring down upon the snakes, a bird's head design on the front of the comb, and a curved cheek rest terminating in a floral motif. The barrel rib has "Parallelisme Parfait" (Perfect parallelism), and the underside of the barrels have French proofs, "MERLEY/*DUON*" (Augustin Merley-Duon was one of the best known barrel makers in St. Etienne), and what appears to be "REPOS." The standing breech has "*ROUX*/OFFREY" (possibly gunmakers Claude Roux or Jean Claude Roux and M. Offrey of St. Etienne) on the face between the hook slots. Louis Philippe I of France (1773-1850, reigned 1830-1848) was "First Prince of the Blood" in the House of Orleans and came to power during the July Revolution in 1830 after the downfall of his cousin Charles X and reigned until he was overthrown in the February 1848 Revolution. King Louis Philippe I was the last King and penultimate monarch of France. Antoine-Louis Barye designed "Lion with a Snake" in 1832 as a tribute to Louis Philippe's victory and also in reference to the constellations Leo and Hydra that were visible during the revolution. The king received the first cast. A lion battling a snake is also a symbol of good triumphing over evil. The bronze was well-received by the new king, and Barye was made a knight of the Legion of Honor. The phoenix on the wrist escutcheon and presumably the stock carving thus also represents the new king rising to power, and the serpents represent his enemies. In Genesis, a phoenix is the only animal in the Garden of Eden that refuses to eat the forbidden fruit and is given eternal life. In addition to the rebirth of France in the revolution, Louis Philippe may have been represented as a phoenix for resisting the temptation to rule as an absolute monarch and instead signing the Charter of 1830 limiting his power as "King of the French" rather than claiming the throne through divine right as "King of France." The strong Christian tones throughout are also interesting given the Charter of 1830 also removed Catholicism as the state religion, but the king remained a Catholic.
Exceptionally fine overall with essentially all of the gold remaining, smooth even gray on most of the Damascus steel throughout along with distinct twist patterns, some brown patina on the trigger guard and butt, aged patina on the silver hammers, crisp engraving and carving, some faint hairline cracks in the otherwise very fine buttstock, and minor marks and scratches on the metal and stock. This an extraordinary museum quality presentation French double barrel shotgun full of symbolism among both the exceptional metal work and the extremely high quality raised relief stock carving.
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