Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 345: Gold and Silver Inlaid 17th Century Wheellock Holster Pistol

Auction Date: December 3, 2021

Extraordinary, Historic, Gold and Silver Inlaid 17th Century Jaques de Goulet Wheellock Holster Pistol from a Pair Documented as Owned by King Louis XIII of France c. 1640 with Additional Silver Inlaid Pommel

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $120,000 - $250,000

Extraordinary, Historic, Gold and Silver Inlaid 17th Century Jaques de Goulet Wheellock Holster Pistol from a Pair Documented as Owned by King Louis XIII of France c. 1640 with Additional Silver Inlaid Pommel

Manufacturer: Unknown
Model: Wheellock
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 48
Barrel: 17 3/4 inch part octagon
Finish: blue/gold/silver/bright
Stock: hardwood
Item Views: 1704
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 198
Class: Antique

The smoothbore, two-stage barrel has "•A•VITRE•PAR•M•IAQVES•DE•GOVLET•" in gold letters along the top of the breech section, an "IG" shield shaped maker's mark on top at the breech, gold and silver floral and classical motifs inlaid along the top of the barrel in matted panels, and bright fire blue finish on the balance. The trigger guard has coordinating decoration. The trigger is offset to the right and pinned above the tail of the lock. The beautifully sculpted lock has some delicate scroll and floral patterns, a bestial design on the jaw, a amorino/putto mask by the wheel, beveled edges, and interesting design with the axle and spring fastened to the sideplate and long trigger plate rather than the lock plate. The stock has silver inlaid marquetry decoration including floral patterns, birds, amorini/putti, and classical soldiers under canopies and coordinating engraving on the silver bands. A second pommel cap with very similar silver decoration including canopies, nude classical figures, and floral patterns is included. On the second pommel, a thicker gauge of wire was used for the wire inlays. This pommel had been fitted to the pistol previously, and then the current one based on measurements of the pommel on the other pistol from this pair was made by Warren Selke and fitted later to bring the pistol back to its original configuration. Jaques/Jacques de Goulet is listed as active c. 1680 in Vitre, Ille-et-Vilaine, France, c. 1680 in "Der Neue Stockel" by Heer. The other pistol from the pair is currently listed in the Royal Armouries Collections as in the Self Defence Gallery in Leeds (Object Number XII.1072) and is marked "No. 207" on the upper right side of the barrel and does not have any barrel decoration visible. It is noted as "Probably by Jacques de Goulet of Vitre"and "From the collection of Louis XIII of France," and the Royal Armouries also note, "The pair to this pistol is held in a private collection." The William Randolph Hearst Archive at Long Island University lists the current pistol as from c. 1640 and states that "Jacques de Goulet, the maker of this fine pistol, was one of Louis XIII's official gunsmiths. It belonged to Louis XIII, and appears in the inventory of his weapons drawn up in 1685, under Louis XIV, where it is No. 207." Their description states that the "lock is of that rare XVII Century French pattern, unlike any other type, the mainspring being encased in the wooden stock and independent of the lock proper and the end of the axle-tree of the wheel is supported by the screw-plate (a French invention) forming a wide open V" and also notes the stock has an "octagonal, ovoid butt. Butt and stock inlaid throughout with silver floral scrolls, and with silver applied plates depicting animals, amorini, and oriental figures under canopies. It is noted that its "provenance and unusual character make it one of the most valuable pieces in the collection. From the Spitzer Collection." The later indicates it was in the collection of Frederic Spitzer (1815-1890) who was a well-known dealer in the late 19th century and sold many ornate arms to Baron Adolphe de Rothschild and Sir Richard Wallace. It is noted as purchased by Hearst from Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., Inc. in 1924 for $1478.60 and as sold to Gimbel Bros., Inc., on March 30, 1943, for $370. It is recorded in "Inventaire General du Mobilier de la Couronne." The inscription on the barrel is discussed in Chapter 14: Signatures in the highly influential book "The Flintlock: Its Origin, Development, and Use" by Torsten Lenk which notes it as found on pistols No. 207 of "Cabinet d'Armes" and later notes that one of the pistols was in the Tower of London and the other in the W. Keith Neal Collection. The same is also noted in the "Gazette des Armes" no. 277 from 1997 on page 24. King Louis XIII (1601-1643, reigned 1610-1643) became king when he was just 8 after the assassination of King Henry IV. His mother, Marie de Medicis of the powerful Italian House of Medici, had a contentious relationship with his father and essentially ruled France following Henry IV's assassination the day following her coronation until Louis XIII exiled her in 1617 and had many of her Italian supporters executed. Nicolas de L'Hospital, later Duke of Vitry, was one of Louis XIII's favorites, a captain of the royal guards, and shot and killed Concino Concini, his mother's favorite, during Louis XIII's coup. He replaced Concini as Marshal of France and was also the governor of the Bastille and helped Louis XIII consolidated the power of the French monarchy but fell from favor after abusing his power and disobeying the king. He was imprisoned in the Bastille in 1637-1643 by the order of Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII's chief minister, after the assault of Henri de Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux. After his release, he was made a duke and peer of France but died the following year. In 1643, his younger brother Francois de L'Hospital (1583-1660), who was also close to the king since 1617, became Marshal of France and colonel of the Regiment of the Queen Mother (later the Regiment of the Crown) and became Duke of Vitry upon his brother's death in 1644. Perhaps the pistols were presented to the king in 1643-1645 by one of these two men as Duke of Vitry. They may have been looted from the Bastille during the French Revolution and then separated. Provenance: The collections of Louis XIII of France; Frederick Spitzer; W. Keith Neal; Clay Bedford; Peter Bedford; Tom Lewis

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine overall as partially restored. This pistol is certainly in much better condition than the other pistol from the pair which is held in the Royal Armouries Collections in the U.K. It has 75% plus of the bright fire blue finish on the barrel, aged patina and moderate wear on the decorated barrel panels and trigger guard, mostly bright lock with light patina and crisp engraving, aged patina on the silver stock inlays and bands, some repairs in the forend, and some minor replacement stock inlays. The second pommel is also fine and has aged patina on the silver and mild wear on the wood. The lock has not been tested. This is a beautiful pistol owned by King Louis XIII of France in the 17th century.

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