These pistols are among the finest known examples of English Neoclassical-style firearms. Each stock is inlaid with engraved sheet silver and embellished with heavy cast-silver mounts. This decoration was inspired by contemporary French Empire firearms, such as those by Boutet also in the Metropolitan Museum's collection (acc. nos. 36.58a–c, 42.50.7a–n, and 1970.179.1). Several of the motifs are based on ancient Roman sources. On the sideplate, for example, the Nereid riding a sea-leopard derives from an engraving of 1762 depicting a wall painting in the recently found ruins of Herculaneum. On the trigger guard, the oval medallion representing Hercules with a defeated Amazon is copied from a well-known antique gem. The Medusa head on the butt also derives from Classical art, but here the idealized model has been transformed into a grimacing, almost humorous caricature of the legendary gorgon.
Marking: Marked on the silver mounts: MB (attributed to Michael Barnett).
Clarence H. Mackay, New York; William Keith Neal, Warminster, England; Sam Cummings, Manchester, England; [Peter Tillou Works of Art Ltd., London][Peter Finer, Ilmington, England, 1992; sold to MMA].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions 1991–2002," September 4, 2002–January 18, 2004, no. 24.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions 1991-2002," September 4, 2002–January 18, 2004.
Pyhrr, Stuart W., Donald J. La Rocca, and Morihiro Ogawa. Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions, 1991–2002. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002. pp. 28–29, no. 24, ill. (color) and figs. 9 (color detail) and 10 (color detail).