Rock Island Auction Company
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Lot 3338: 17th Century Pair of Chiseled Brescian Flintlock Pistols

Auction Date: September 12, 2021

Incredible Documented 17th Century Pair of Chiseled Brescian Flintlock Pistols by Giovanni Bianco and Bernardi Basone

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $25,000 - $37,500

A) Brescian Flintlock Pistol

Manufacturer: Italian
Model: Flintlock
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 66
Barrel: 12 1/2 inch round
Finish: bright
Grip:
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1110
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 188
Class: Antique
Description:

These impressive pistols are among the most ornate to come from the talented gunmakers of Brescia in Northern Italy. They region's craftsmen were and are well-known for their high quality barrels and chiseled metalwork. This pair bears the signatures "Giovan Bianco" on the locks and "Bernadi Basone" on the breech section of the barrels. Giovani Bianco born 1634 was active into at least the mid 1680s, but little is known about him aside from a few other fine firearms with his markings. Bernardi Basone (also seen spelled as Bernardino and Bazzone) (born c. 1630) is better documented. He was the master of a workshop in Brescia in the mid to late 1600s and is recorded as fleeing to the Duchy of Piacenza in 1695 after a dispute with the famous Cominazzi barrel makers that led to the death of his brother. He was active again in Brescia by 1698. These pistols were part of the armory of the Counts of Urbach at Schloss Urbach southwest of Ulm. Their subsequent owner was internationally recognized arms and armor collector Luigi Marzoli (1893-1965) of Brescia. Much of his fine arms and armor collection is now on display in the Civico Museo delle Armi Luigi Marzoli. Information from the 1932 Lucerne auction of the Urbach collection is included. The sculpted monkeys on the pierced triggers and ramrod tips appear to reference hear no evil and speak no evil which is unusual given the famous Three Wise Monkeys originate from Japan in the 16th century or earlier. That nation was largely closed off from the world during the Edo period (1639-1858), and the maxim did not become popular in Europe until the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, Europeans showed an affinity for Japanese arts and culture in the late 16th and early 17th centuries after contact was made by Portuguese traders in 1543, and the proverb "Hear all, see all, say nowt" was already established in Europe in the late Middle Ages. Monkeys have been noted on a limited number of other Brescian pistols, including a pair signed by Domenico Bonomino sold by RIAC in 2018, but monkeys are far from the norm. The three-stage barrels are smoothbore and have chevron designs on the front 7 1/2 inches terminating in a chiseled leafy panel before the banded transition to a smooth section with intaglio floral designs followed by another band before the chiseled breech sections which have coordinating chevron and leaf patterns. The latter flow onto the front of the barrel tangs, and the rear of the tangs have intaglio floral patterns and the number "2". The locks have a combination of chiseled and relief engraved patterns, primarily floral in nature, along with a mythical wyvern/dragon on the tails which terminate in pointed teats, brideless pans, and graceful cocks with pieced reinforcement in the necks. The furniture throughout has ornate chiseled scroll patterns inhabited by floral designs including berries like those on the cocks, the same wyverns as the locks, and a pair of coordinating classical Roman busts on the pommel studs showing a male figure on first and female figure on the second. The trigger guards have pierced finials. The burl walnut stocks have raised carving at and near the ramrod entry points.

Rating Definition:

Fine with the metal kept mostly bright in the European tradition and exhibiting some gray patina in and amongst the detailed metalwork and limited spots of slight pitting. The stock is also fine and remains solid but has some cracks, repairs, and small flakes as well as very attractive figure and grain and smooth finish. The lock is functional, but the trigger and sear arrangement needs work.



B) Brescian Flintlock Pistol

Manufacturer: Italian
Model: Flintlock
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 66
Barrel: 12 1/2 inch round
Finish: bright
Grip:
Stock:
Item Views: 1110
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 188
Class: Antique
Description:

See "A." Provenance: The collections of the Counts of Erbach at Schloss Erbach, Luigi Marzoli, Lenoir M. Josey, and Robert M. Lee

Rating Definition:

Fine with the metal on the barrel and lock mostly kept bright in the European tradition and some gray patina on the metalwork as well as some spots of minor pitting. The stock is good and has a chip absent at the tail of the lock, some cracks and repairs (including a break through the midsection), and attractive burl figure and grain. The trigger and sear engagement needs work, but the lock is functional. This is an incredible pair of early flintlock pistols. The Brescian gunmakers have long been renowned for their incredible metalwork, and this pair certainly is a fine example of how they earned that reputation.



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