Samuel Brunn (English, London, recorded 1795–1820)
Attributed to Michael Barnett (English, London, 1758–ca. 1823)
hallmarked for 1800–1801
Steel, wood (walnut), silver, gold
L. of each pistol 16 in. (40.6 cm); L. of each barrel 10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm); Cal. of each pistol .603 in. (15.3 mm)
Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund and Gift of George D. Pratt, by exchange, 1992
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 375
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).
Ex. colls.: Clarence H. Mackay, New York; William Keith Neal, Warminster, England; Sam Cummings, Manchester, England; [Peter Tillou Works of Art Ltd., London].