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A MAGNIFICENT FRENCH FLINTLOCK SPORTING RIFLE BEARING THE MONOGRAM OF JEROME NAPOLEON, KING OF WESTPHALIA
A MAGNIFICENT FRENCH FLINTLOCK SPORTING RIFLE BEARING THE MONOGRAM OF JEROME NAPOLEON, KING OF WESTPHALIA

BY NICOLAS NOËL BOUTET, DIRECTEUR ARTISTE, VERSAILLES, CIRCA 1799-1803

Details
A MAGNIFICENT FRENCH FLINTLOCK SPORTING RIFLE BEARING THE MONOGRAM OF JEROME NAPOLEON, KING OF WESTPHALIA
BY NICOLAS NOËL BOUTET, DIRECTEUR ARTISTE, VERSAILLES, CIRCA 1799-1803
With swamped multi-groove rifled sighted barrel signed in full on the side-flats, decorated with gold-inlaid panels, scrollwork and flowering foliage over its entire length, and retaining nearly all of its original blued finish, bright engraved tang and false-breech, flat lock with gold-inlaid ornament, signed 'Boutet a Versailles' on the bevelled edge above and below the steel-spring, and with gold-lined raised priming-pan and roller, finely figured walnut full stock with intricately carved scrolled finger-rest behind the trigger-guard and decorated with fine silver-alloy ornament throughout, the right side of the butt with silver-inlaid crowned monogram 'JN', set trigger, finely engraved bright steel mounts, and original steel ramrod with turned silver tip
25 3/8 in. (64.5 cm.) barrel
The upper surface of the breech with maker's mark and inspection mark of Boutet, a Consulate period inspection mark, and a mark indicting the barrel was purchased 'in the white' from Liège, the underside of the breech with inspection mark of Daniel Bouyssavy
Sale Room Notice
This Lot is Withdrawn. Please contact Paul van den Biesen if you have any further questions via pvandenbiesen@christies.com.

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Lot Essay

King of Westphalia
Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte (15 November 1784 – 24 June 1860) was the youngest brother of Napoléon I. The Emperor created the Kingdom of Westphalia in 1807 from former Prussian and Hanoverian possessions between the rivers Weser and Elbe, and the greater part of electoral Hesse with the capital established at Kassel, and placed Jérôme on the throne. Jérôme had served in the Consular Guard and the Navy joining the expeditionary force to Haiti in 1801. Under threat of capture by the Royal Navy, Jérôme sailed for the United States and in 1803 married Elizabeth Patterson, the daughter of a wealthy Baltimore merchant. Returning to Europe with his pregnant wife in 1805, Jérôme’s wedded bliss fell foul of the Emperor’s plans for politically advantageous marriages for his siblings. His wife was excluded from the Empire resulting in his son being born in England. Jérôme complied with his brother’s wishes and after a brief spell at sea in the Mediterranean in 1806 he allowed his first marriage to be annulled by Imperial Decree in 1807 and later that year married HRH Princess Catharina of Württemberg, the daughter of King Frederick I of Württemberg, with whom he would have three children. During his short reign Jérôme drained the state treasury with civic improvements and grandiose renovation and furnishing of his palaces. His inept government and military failure during the Russian Campaign enraged Napoléon. In 1813 with the collapse of the Napoleonic regime in Germany he returned to France, and it is almost certainly at this point that the rifle passed into the possession of the Hanoverian Royal family when its former territories were restored following the Congress of Vienna in 1814-5. Jérôme fought at Waterloo as a divisional commander, but following Napoléon’s second abdication he left France and went into exile in Italy. Following the February Revolution in 1848 when his nephew, Louis Napoleon, became President of the second French Republic and shortly after Emperor Napoléon III, he served in several official roles including Governor of Invalides, president of the Senate and was created the first Prince of Montfort.


Nicolas Noël Boutet
In 1792 the Committee of Public Safety appointed Nicolas Noël Boutet (1761-1833) as Directeur of the new Manufacture d’Armes de Versailles overseeing production of firearms and swords. A tradition of gunmaking was strong with Boutet, his father-in-law Pierre De Saintes had been a Arquebusier Ordinaire to the king, his father Noël had held the position of Arquebusier des chevaux légers du Roi, and he himself had been an Arquebusier Ordinaire to the king and to the Dauphin. Whilst his administrative skills may have been questionable, and he continually struggled financially, his talent as a designer and producer of armes de luxe is beyond doubt with some of the most beautiful and desirable antique arms coveted today bearing his signature. In 1799 he was appointed Directeur-General des Manufactures d’Armes et Ateliers de Reparation de France, and in 1800 rose to the position of Directeur Artiste for the Versailles Manufactory. This placed him in a powerful and influential position controlling both the technical and artistic direction of the premier arms production facility in France, not only of the finest grade pistols, rifles and gun but also of arms for the Imperial Guard. He was joined by his son, Pierre-Nicolas, in 1804 in a partnership that would last for the remainder of his career which astonishingly survived the fall of the Ancien Régime, the Revolution, the rise of Napoléon and the fall of the Empire, and finally the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty. The Versailles Manufactory became a target for pillaging Prussian troops in July 1815 and large quantities of material was destroyed or stolen. Boutet never fully recovered from this set back and although he and his son continued to work long after the cessation of his official contract in 1818, he was no longer the entrepreneur he had been and he died in poverty in 1833.

Although not actually Napoléon’s official Gunmaker (that distinction lay with Le Page), examples of Boutet’s work for Napoléon and his brothers survive in national collections around the world with the largest concentration at the Musée de l’Armée in Paris. A double-barrelled flintlock sporting gun by Le Page belonging to Jérôme-Napoléon, and bearing his silver-inlaid monogram as King of Westphalia positioned and orientated on the right face of the butt in an identical manner to that on the present Lot, is preserved in the Baumann Foundation Collection housed in the Reichsstadtmuseum, Rothenburg (inv. no. 211). A single-barrelled flintlock fowling-piece by Boutet belonging to his brother Joseph is held in the Wallace Collection, London (inv. no. A1129), and a double-barrelled over-and-under flintlock sporting gun by Le Page bearing the silver inlaid monogram of the Emperor Napoléon is in Collections of the National Museum, Cracow (inv. No. V. 1427), illustrated in J.F. Hayward, The Art of the Gunmaker, Vol. II, 1963, pl. 64a. A silver-mounted double-barrelled flintlock sporting gun by Boutet noted as “formerly belonging to Napoleon Buonaparte”, was sold in these Rooms as part of the collection of HRH The Duke of York (deceased) on 30 March 1827, Lot 29 for £105.

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