Pair of Flintlock Pistols

Gunsmith: Samuel Brunn (English, London, recorded 1795–1820)

Silversmith: Attributed to Michael Barnett (English, London, 1758–ca. 1823)

Date: hallmarked for 1800–1801

Geography: London

Culture: British, London

Medium: Steel, wood (walnut), silver, gold

Dimensions: 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)

Classification: Firearms

Credit Line: Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund and Gift of George D. Pratt, by exchange, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.330.1, .2


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.