Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Cased Set of a Flintlock Rifle, a Pair of Pistols, and Accessories

Nicolas Noël Boutet (French, Versailles and Paris, 1761–1833)
ca. 1800
French, Versailles
Steel, wood (walnut, mahogany), silver, gold, horn, velvet
L. of rifle 43 1/2 in. (110.5 cm); L. of barrel of rifle 27 5/8 in. (70.2 cm); Cal. of rifle .64 in. (16.3 mm); Wt. of rifle 6 lb. 7 oz. (2920 g); L. of each pistol 17 in. (43.17 cm); L. of barrel 11 5/8 in. (29.53 cm); Cal. of each pistol .52 in. (13.2 mm); Wt. of each pistol 2 lbs. 2 oz. (963.9 g); Dim. of case 46 7/16 x 15 15/16 x 2 3/16 in. (118 x 40.5 x 5.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1970
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 375
The Revolution of 1789 and the subsequent rise of Napoleon, first as consul (1799–1804) and then as emperor (1804–14), brought about a dramatic change in the design and decoration of French firearms. The principal innovator was Nicholas Noël Boutet (1761–1833), who was named directeur-artiste of the newly formed Versailles Arms Manufactory in 1792. While the Versailles factory was the principal producer of regulation weapons for the French armies, Boutet was also charged with creating richly decorated arms for presentation to military heroes and foreign heads of state.

Firearms of this period, like the rifle illustrated, show an unequaled technical perfection and precision of workmanship. The delicate Rococo style associated with the ancien régime was abandoned and replaced by the more masculine classicism of the Empire style with its references to Greco-Roman and Egyptian motifs. Gunstocks were inlaid with engraved sheet silver and gold, and the mounts were often of heavy silver cast in bold relief. The decoration included trophies of arms and scenes of classical battles and victories that implied France's military glory.

A cased set of this type was among the most luxurious offerings of the Boutet Manufactory. It includes a lavishly decorated rifle, matching pistols, and a full array of tools and accessories necessary to load and unload the weapons or to disassemble them for cleaning or maintenance.
Inscription: Rifle: Barrel (serial number, at side) 55 (makers mark, underneath) DB within wreath.
Pistols: Barrels (serial number, at side) 56 Locks (inidentified lockmaker, insdie) JQ
Assembly marks: X,  (These marks found on almost every individual part of lock, stock and barrel of pistols; they also occur on carbine, but are less numerous)
Inscriptons: Rifle: Barrel (in script, along top): Boutet Directeur Artiste Manufrre a Versailles
Lockplate: BOUTET a Versailles
Escutcheon (in Cyrillic): Nicolai Pompeyevich Shabelski
Stock (stamped beneath sideplate): NICHOLAS DE CHABELSKY ST RAPHAEL VAR FRANCE
Rifle: Buttplate: 29·NOVEMBER·1900·PARIS
Pistols: Barrels (in script, along top): Boutet a Versailles
Lockplates: BOUTET a Versailles
Triggerguards (in Cyrillic): Nicolai pompeyevich Shabelski (in monogram) NS
Accessories: Powderflask: Entreprise Boutet Manufacre a Versailles
Case (on silver escutcheon): Manuf* a Versailles Entrepse Boutet

(1) octagon containing cock with number 1 to left (official assay mark - poinçon de titre - denoting first standard silver (0.950) for period 1798-1809)
(2) oval containing number 88 separated by head of old man (excise mark - poinçon de garantie - used in Seine-Inférieure Départment for large-sized work, 1798-1809)
(3) lozenge containing initials JM separated by pellet, five pointed star above, seven pellets below in form of grape cluster
(maker's mark, unidentified)
Ex. coll.: Bidal (?); G. Diderrich.
Grancsay, Stephen V. "Napoleon's Gunmaker." The American Rifleman 96, no. 7 (July 1948). pp. 35–38, ill.

Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970. no. 360, ill.

Nickel, Helmut. Ullstein-Waffenbuch: Eine Kulturhistorische Waffenkunde mit Markenverzeichnis. Berlin: Ullstein, 1974. p. 253, ill.

Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. p. 43, ill.

Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor From the Permanent Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 49, no. 1 (Summer 1991). pp. 46, 64, ill.

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