The winter arms and armour season opened in London with a 519-lot, £1.135m sale of arms and armour sale at Bonhams (27.5/25/2013.9% buyer’s premium) in Knightsbridge.
Chief contributor to that total was the afternoon session devoted to items from the Mark and Peter Dineley Collections. This concluded with a bid of £38,000 for a show-stopping pair of double-barrelled John Manton flintlock pistols made for the Nawab of Oudh.
The late Peter Dineley was an arms and armour collector who died in December 2018 aged 80. He took over the business of Bapty & Co following the death of his father Mark in 1971. Under his direction the firm became what has been described as the largest theatrical armoury in the world, supplying weapons for many blockbuster films, including the Star Wars trilogy, Indiana Jones movies and Saving Private Ryan.
The arms included in Bonhams’ sale on November 27 were far from being theatrical props, however, and those Manton pistols were a case in point. They had many points in their favour. Firstly, they were by the elder of the two Manton brothers whose pre-eminent positions in the annals of English gun-making are unchallenged.
Secondly, they were of the highest quality with extensive gold inlay. Few Manton pistols with gilt decorations are recorded. The last seen at auction were a pair of Joseph Manton duelling pistols sold by Bonhams in 2011 for £55,000.
Thirdly, they were made for one of that select band of Indian super-rich potentates who commissioned so many of the rare and wonderful weapons now coveted by collectors.
Add to this the fact that the pistols were double-barrelled (always a plus) and that they were featured in influential Manton reference works by W Keith Neal and DHL Back, and their pedigree is all but complete.
An exceptional pair of early percussion rifled duelling pistols by Samuel and Charles Smith of London, of high quality, cased with accessories and in excellent condition, sold for £22,000.
The work of these gunsmiths made several appearances in the sale with a cased pair of 54-bore saw-handled percussion target pistols making £4000.
One of the jewels of the Dineley collection was an exceptional over-and-under double-barrelled 28-bore pistol made c.1793 by Durs Egg of London for a Scottish army officer, Alexander Malcolm of the 78th (Highland) Regiment of Foot – The Ross-shire Buffs.
Reflecting the origins of its original owner, this gun had a double ram’s horn terminal to its wooden butt reminiscent of the all-steel pistols traditional in the Highlands. The wooden butt itself was inlaid with silver wirework, martial trophies and the owner’s arms and the insignia of the 78th Regiment.
In other respects this was an up-to-the-minute London pistol by one of the best makers of his day, with a single-trigger mechanism firing each barrel in turn, a full trigger-guard in the French manner and gold lined touch holes.
This unusually sophisticated belt pistol doubled its estimate to sell for £12,000.
Sword and dagger combined
Pistols were not the only shot in the Dineley locker. There were plenty of edged weapons too, including one extreme rarity.
This was a broad-bladed Italian cinquedea, a 2ft 2¾in (68cm) long cross between a short sword and a long dagger dating from the late 15th or late 16th century. Such pieces are rarely seen outside museums and this example came onto the open market complete with its original hardened leather scabbard. The result was a price of £30,000.