Box of four pistols and accessories owned by Napoleon I

It was once customary to give knives and firearms, either as a reward for deserving officers, or as a diplomatic gift to heads of State. Pistols were presented in boxes containing everything needed for dismantling and maintenance, not forgetting the bullet mould.

This set was undoubtedly Napoleon's favourite, which he liked to call "my Versailles pistols", just as he called the sword he carried at Austerlitz "my sword". He was never separated from it during his exile in St. Helena, and left it to his son in his will.

These particularly lavish weapons are the work of Nicolas Noël-Boutet, director of the Manufacture de Versailles, Europe's most prestigious luxury weapons factory at the time.

But can they still be described as weapons? It is true that Boutet, who often signed his name as "Boutet, director and artist", was not really interested in technical innovations. His indisputable superiority lay not only in his inventive shapes and distribution of volumes, where nothing was left to chance, but also in the way he overcame difficulties relating to the adjustment of precious metal plates. This is what makes these objects, with their rich and varied ornamentation, a real work of art. In the field of weaponry, he may be considered as the founder of a new aesthetic.

Label

Date: Circa 1805

Author: Nicolas Noël-Boutet, Manufacture de Versailles

Materials: Walnut, steel, gold, silver, ivory

Techniques: Sculpted wood, assembly and plating of chased and gilded precious metals.

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Inventory no.: Ca 19

History: Gift from the Ministry of Fine Arts 1897