L. of rifle 43 1/2 in. (110.5 cm); L. of barrel of rifle 27 5/8 in. (70.2 cm); Cal. of rifle .64 in. (16.3 mm); Wt. of rifle 6 lb. 7 oz. (2920 g); L. of each pistol 17 in. (43.17 cm); L. of barrel 11 5/8 in. (29.53 cm); Cal. of each pistol .52 in. (13.2 mm); Wt. of each pistol 2 lbs. 2 oz. (963.9 g); Dim. of case 46 7/16 x 15 15/16 x 2 3/16 in. (118 x 40.5 x 5.5 cm)
The Revolution of 1789 and the subsequent rise of Napoleon, first as consul (1799–1804) and then as emperor (1804–14), brought about a dramatic change in the design and decoration of French firearms. The principal innovator was Nicholas Noël Boutet (1761–1833), who was named directeur-artiste of the newly formed Versailles Arms Manufactory in 1792. While the Versailles factory was the principal producer of regulation weapons for the French armies, Boutet was also charged with creating richly decorated arms for presentation to military heroes and foreign heads of state.
Firearms of this period, like the rifle illustrated, show an unequaled technical perfection and precision of workmanship. The delicate Rococo style associated with the ancien régime was abandoned and replaced by the more masculine classicism of the Empire style with its references to Greco-Roman and Egyptian motifs. Gunstocks were inlaid with engraved sheet silver and gold, and the mounts were often of heavy silver cast in bold relief. The decoration included trophies of arms and scenes of classical battles and victories that implied France's military glory.
A cased set of this type was among the most luxurious offerings of the Boutet Manufactory. It includes a lavishly decorated rifle, matching pistols, and a full array of tools and accessories necessary to load and unload the weapons or to disassemble them for cleaning or maintenance.
Inscription: Rifle: Barrel (serial number, at side) 55 (makers mark, underneath) DB within wreath. Pistols: Barrels (serial number, at side) 56 Locks (inidentified lockmaker, insdie) JQ Assembly marks: X, (These marks found on almost every individual part of lock, stock and barrel of pistols; they also occur on carbine, but are less numerous) Inscriptons: Rifle: Barrel (in script, along top): Boutet Directeur Artiste Manufrre a Versailles Lockplate: BOUTET a Versailles Escutcheon (in Cyrillic): Nicolai Pompeyevich Shabelski Stock (stamped beneath sideplate): NICHOLAS DE CHABELSKY ST RAPHAEL VAR FRANCE Rifle: Buttplate: 29·NOVEMBER·1900·PARIS Pistols: Barrels (in script, along top): Boutet a Versailles Lockplates: BOUTET a Versailles Triggerguards (in Cyrillic): Nicolai pompeyevich Shabelski (in monogram) NS Accessories: Powderflask: Entreprise Boutet Manufacre a Versailles Case (on silver escutcheon): Manuf* a Versailles Entrepse Boutet
Hallmarks (1) octagon containing cock with number 1 to left (official assay mark - poinçon de titre - denoting first standard silver (0.950) for period 1798-1809) (2) oval containing number 88 separated by head of old man (excise mark - poinçon de garantie - used in Seine-Inférieure Départment for large-sized work, 1798-1809) (3) lozenge containing initials JM separated by pellet, five pointed star above, seven pellets below in form of grape cluster (maker's mark, unidentified)
Ex. coll.: Bidal (?); G. Diderrich.
Paris. Exposition Universelle. "Pavillon de la Chasse," April 14–November 12, 1900.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of Arms and Armor," February 6–April 16, 1911.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–February 14, 1971.
Exposition Universelle. Musée Rétrospectif de la Classe 51: Armes de Chasse (Matériel, Procédés et Produits) à l'Exposition Universelle Internationale de 1900, à Paris: Rapport du Comité d'Installation. Paris, ca. 1900. p. 15 (garniture discussed as in possession of M. Bidal).
Bottet, Maurice. La Manufacture D'armes De Versailles Boutet, Directeur Artiste. Paris: J. Leroy, 1903. pl. LIII.
Grancsay, Stephen V. Loan Exhibition of European Arms and Armor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, August 3 to September 27, 1931. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1931. p. 94, no. 390, ill.
Grancsay, Stephen V. "Napoleon's Gunmaker." The American Rifleman 96 (July 1948). pp. 35–38, ill. (Boutet discussed; marks of this garniture illustrated).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Kenneth Clark. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1970. p. 306, no. 360, ill.
Akehurst, Richard. The World of Guns. London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1972. pp. 112–13, 118–19, ill.
Nickel, Helmut. "Tamgas and Runes, Magic Numbers and Magic Symbols." Metropolitan Museum Journal 8 (1973). p. 165 (Schabelski arms discussed).
Pyhrr, Stuart W. "Hidden Marks on Boutet Firearms." The Arms and Armor Annual 1 (1973). pp. 266–74.
Nickel, Helmut. Ullstein-Waffenbuch: Eine Kulturhistorische Waffenkunde Mit Markenverzeichnis. Berlin: Ullstein, 1974. pp. 252–53, ill.
Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. p. 43, ill.
Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor from the Permanent Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 49, no. 1 (Summer, 1991). pp. 46, 64, ill.