Over the centuries certain gunsmiths have come to be remembered as the finest of their time, producing arms of the highest technical quality, decorated by the finest engravers and inlayers, for the most discerning of patrons.
Foremost among these must be Nicolas-Noel Boutet, who was born into a family of royal gunsmiths and later became director of the state arms manufactory at Versailles following the Revolution.
A fine example of Boutet’s output was to be found at Bonhams in London on December 3 when a cased pair of 32-bore flintlock pistols dating from c.1815-18 sold for £50,000. Not only were these pistols made to the highest standards, with engraved and gold inlaid decoration, they had survived in the crispest condition.
The guns themselves appeared virtually untouched, as were the accessories. Even the green baize lining to the case remained pristine, if a little faded.
Another eminent European maker from a little later in the 19th century contributed a pair of fine pistols to the sale at Thomas Del Mar in London on the following day.
Anton Vincent Lebeda was a Prague gunsmith who enjoyed royal patronage from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria among others. Lebeda worked in Prague from 1797-1857 and was succeeded by his son Ferdinand, who worked from 1824-89.
The .500 calibre percussion rifled target pistols on offer at Del Mar were of presentation quality, with chiselled and gold-inlaid decoration and a full set of accessories in a rosewood-veneered case. These sold for £22,000.