Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1271: Relief Carved and Inlaid 17th Century Flintlock Pistol

Auction Date: August 27, 2022

Extraordinarily Rare Relief Carved and Inlaid 17th Century Flintlock Pistol with Fantastic Carved Bust Pommel Attributed to Master Carver Johann Michael Maucher

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $20,000 - $35,000

Extraordinarily Rare Relief Carved and Inlaid 17th Century Flintlock Pistol with Fantastic Carved Bust Pommel Attributed to Master Carver Johann Michael Maucher

Manufacturer: German
Model: Flintlock
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 56
Barrel: 11 3/8 inch part round
Finish: bright
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 681
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 222
Class: Antique

Per the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Johann Michael Maucher was the most famous member of a Schwabian family of ivory, wood, and amber carvers. He specialized in decorating gunstocks in intricately carved walnut inlaid with panels of ivory worked in relief depicting hunting subjects and allegorical figures. Firearms with such luxurious decoration presumably were valued more for their artistic virtuosity than for their practical use as sporting arms." Johann Georg Maucher, Johann Michael Maucher's father, owned a gunshop, and his brother Christopher was also a gunsmith and stock carver. In addition to sporting arms, he also carved firearm accouterments, sword handles, and other items. They were meant as art pieces for display. In 1689, Maucher fled to Augsburg due to accusations of counterfeiting money. One of his famous rifles was presented to Emperor Leopold I in 1688 and is one of the two Maucher rifles in the MET's collection. It is worthy of close inspection and comparison to the current pistol as its carving qualities certainly bear a resemblance to this pistol. Another famous rifle owned by Prince Adam Andreas von Liechtenstein (1657-1712) remains in the royal collection and is also shown in a still life painting from the end of the 17th century by Dirk Valkenburg (see p. 16-18 of "Firearms from the Collections of the Prince of Liechtenstein" by Stuart W. Pyhrr). Toward the end of Maucher's life, he moved to Wurzburg and lived there from 1693 until his death in 1701. Metropolitan Museum Curator Emeritus Stuart W. Phyrr previously indicated that the mate to this pistol is in the collection of Palazzo Odescalchi in Rome. While Maucher's work is represented in collections like the MET's, his work is exceedingly hard to acquire, and there are only approximately 30 firearms by this great artist extant, many removed from the public marketplace. It is reported that only three pistols by Maucher pistols are in America. Aside from this pistol, the only others known are a pair from the Joseph Kindig Jr. Collection subsequently owned by Herbert G. Ratner Jr. The stock-work carving is really what sets this pistol apart. Along the sides of the forend are inlaid panels with relief carved scenes of dogs and prey among scrollwork. The ramrod entry is carved with a bestial head and checkered pattern. The midsection at the front of the lock features a merman and mermaid clasping hands. The inlaid sideplate is particularly elaborate and includes a primary scene of a group of dogs attacking a stag with one of the dogs being gored, one biting at the shoulder, another biting the hind quarters, and the final dog clamping down on one of the rear legs. Behind the last dog is a nicely carved tree, and at the front in fine relief are a hunter and lady on horseback cut in relief so that they are in the background and executed in stunning fashion. The top of the wrist is carved in relief with a mounted hunter blowing a horn with a pair of pommel holsters and sword on his horse. The balance of the wood is carved with scroll and floral patterns. The hunting patterns are similar to designs by famous 16th century Swiss engraver Jost Amman. The sides of the wrist have inlaid "stirrups" with floral carving, and the pommel is an extraordinary carved bust of a mounted soldier or officer with a thick mustache, curly hair, partially agape mouth with detailed teeth, masks on the armor on his shoulders, additional masks on the roundels of the chin straps, double headed reichsadlers on the sides appropriate for the various components of the Holy Roman Empire, and feathers along the crest. The smoothbore, cannon style barrel has bands at the muzzle and mid-section, ribbed breech section, and no sights. The lock has extensive floral scroll engraving. The ramrod tip, single ramrod ferrule, and trigger guard are iron. Provenance: Christie's London, 15 Dec. 2022, Lot 163; The Collection of Joe M. Wanenmacher Jr

Rating Definition:

Fine with mottled gray patina and mild pitting on the metal. The right forend panel is an expertly executed replacement as noted in the prior catalog listing and has only subtle differences in carving and coloration and some slight fill towards the lock end. The rest of the stock is fine and retains beautiful carving and details, some faint signs of small repairs, scattered small insect holes, a few faint cracks, excellent details and natural tones and patina on the antique ivory inlays and pommel, and mild overall wear. Mechanically fine. This is an incredibly rare and stunning 17th century flintlock pistol with absolutely exceptional carving throughout.

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