Premier Firearms Auction
May 12, 13, 14, & 15, 2023
Magnificent Sliver Mounted Double Barrel Flintlock Fowling Piece Made By Nicholas Noel Boutet Once Owned By French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte And Bearing His “N” Cipher In Three Places
Cal. 20 bore
This fantastic high art sporting gun is truly fit for an emperor and bears the famous “N” cipher on the trigger guard bow. Nicholas Noel Boutet is regarded as the finest gunmaker of the 19th century and by many authorities as the greatest of all time. Boutet was the “Directeur Artiste” of the Versailles arms factory and was responsible for creating masterpieces for his patron, Napoleon, that would demonstrate the might and glory of the French Empire through diplomatic presentations to the crowned heads of Europe, victorious generals, admirals, and important noblemen. Boutet made a number of guns and pistols as well as swords for Napoleon’s personal use as did LePage and he was charged with making weapons “to surpass everything else ever made and to reach a level of perfection that foreign countries will despair of”. This is one such example of Boutet’s unsurpassed artistry.
The 32 inch barrels are round with sunken rib flattened at the breech. The right flat is engraved “Boutet Directeur Artiste” followed by a star and the number “15”. The left flat is engraved “Manufre a Versailles”. The barrels have a 10 inch paned encrusted with raised relief gold decoration further enhanced by 4 dragons in fine Damascene work. Gold Damascene and gold encrustation decorated the muzzle ends and the front sight. The locks are shaped at the rear matching the curvature of the stock and are very finely engraved with a cock behind the swan neck hammers which feature fine foliate engraving. The locks are beautifully engraved in characteristic Boutet script “Boutet a Versailles” between the hammers and the elongated frizzen springs. The hammer clamps are engraved with sunbursts and the frizzens with foliate scrolls. Platinum touch-holes and platinum lined pans adorn the gun. The top tang and sighting groove are finely engraved ensuite. The highly figured exhibition quality French walnut half stock is intricately carved with an exquisitely detailed boar’s head at the wrist. The wrist and fore-end are finely checkered with incise carved borders that transition to ornate floral carving surrounding the locks, top-tang, and fore-arm. The area behind the cheekpiece is decorated with floral carving ensuite. The mounts are of highly ornate silver, cast and chased in high relief. The trigger-guard has an ornate finial cast and chased in relief with a grotesque mask of a winged wyvern which leads to the bow and an owl’s head over the Napoleonic “N”. The paramount “N” appears at the center of a shield between two wolf’s heads. The fore-end cap is of silver cast and chased in high relief with an open winged eagle, the quintessential symbol of the French Empire under Napoleon with its head surmounted by a star and “N” adorning its proud breast. The finial features a mythological herm with serpent tail legs. The ornate silver butt-plate is cast and chased in relief with the open winged eagle, symbol of the First Empire above the Emperor’s “N” cipher and stamped with Paris Empire period silver marks. The silver tipped ebony ramrod is held by the faceted silver thimble attached to the fore-end cap and further by two ornate faceted silver ramrod pipes.
A silver gilt garniture by Boutet consisting of a carbine, a pair of holster pistols, and a pair of pocket pistols was sold for $5,500,000.00. Two cased sets of Boutet pistols were each sold for in excess of $1,500,000.00 and only last year, an uncased pair of silver mounted officers’ pistols by Boutet with attribution to Napoleon were sold for 978,000 British pounds. A magnificent sporting gun by Jean LePage bearing “the initial letter N surmounted by a wreath” was sold by Sotheby’s Zurich on the 25th of November 1980 as lot 114. The catalog description states: “The number in it (946) corresponds to a series of orders executed by Boutet for Napoleon and intended for presentation to his Marshals, Generals, and Ruling Sovereigns.” This lovely firearm by the most famous of all flintlock era gunmakers and personally owned by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte represents a unique opportunity to acquire a work of art with genuine historical association. WEIGHT: 6 lbs, 9.7 ozs.