This sumptuous musket-fork was made to accompany a musket with a combined match- and wheel-lock, now in the Armeria Reale, Turin, together with its accessories, a wheel-lock spanner and two powder-flasks, all, like the fork, en suite with it (inv. nos. M 12, N'12, N'22 and 23). Described by the late John Hayward as the finest single gun in existence, it and its accessories together are the combined master work of two famous Munich artist-craftsmen, Emanuel Sadeler (steel-chiseller) and Adam Vischer (stockmaker and decorator), possibly assisted by the distinguished engraver and print-maker, Johannes Sadeler, who may have engraved the ivory inlays in the stock and wooden parts of the fork and powder-flasks.
The set was presented in 1650 together with a carbine (also at Turin), and its accessories, to Duke Carlo Emanuele II of Savoy by the Elector Maximilian I of Bavaria, on the occasion of the marriage by proxy of Henrietta Adelaide, sister of Carlo Emanuele, to the Bavarian Prince Ferdinand Maria. The pieces were not made specially for this purpose, since they were seen in the Munich Kunstkammer by Philipp Hainhofer of Augsburg in May 1611, when he wrote the following description of them:
'On a table, a fine great musket and a carbine and a musket-rest with three powder-flasks, the locks and barrels decorated with silver-gilt and slightly inlaid with gold, the stock inlaid in addition to ivory with gold, silver, and mother-of-pearl, a beautiful and painstaking work, all contained in a fine case.'
They are further described in an undated inventory drawn up between 1611 and 1637, and in an inventory of 1641-42. The fact that they were kept in the Kunstkammer indicates that they were regarded as objects for display, rather than for use.
The stock of the musket bears the monogram of Adam Vischer, who is first recorded in July 1599, when he was admitted master in Munich, so it must date from between then, or shortly before, and 1611: in fact, the record in the Court accounts for 1599 of a payment to Vischer of the exceptionally high sum of 250 florins for 'his masterpiece' ['sein Meisterstck'] almost certainly refers to it.
The Munich court workshop was responsible for some of the most magnificent weapons ever made, thanks to the inspiration of a series of artists who were employed successively by the Dukes and Electors of Bavaria. The first of these was Emanuel Sadeler, son of an Antwerp sword-cutler of the same name, who was appointed Eisenarbeiter to Duke William of Bavaria in 1594, a position he retained until his death in 1610, when he was succeeded by his younger brother Daniel. The fact that the Turin musket and its accessories, including the present fork, were already in existence in 1611 establishes that the chiselled decoration was his work, and makes them the only firmly-documented examples of it known. Adam Vischer's name appears in the Munich rate-books until 1610, but is thereafter unrecorded. Johannes Sadeler the Elder, a cousin of Emanuel Sadeler, trained initially as a gunstocker, but in the seventeenth Century became one of the leading engravers on copper. He is recorded in Munich in 1594-5, but by 1597 was in Prague. If he was responsible for the engraving of the ivory inlays on the group of pieces under discussion, as was suggested by Hans Stcklein on the grounds of its superb quality, it has to be assumed that work had started on them before he left for Prague.
A wheel-lock pistol produced in the same workshop at about the same time was sold in these Rooms, 8 July 1980, lot 70, (121,000, at the time the world auction record for a pistol). For further literature, see V. Syssel d'Aix, Armeria antica e moderna di S.M. Carlo Alberto, Turin, 1840, pp. 289-93; A. Angelucci, Catalogo dell'Armeria Reale di Torino, Turin, 1890, pp. 411-14; Hans Stcklein, Meister des Eisenschnittes, Esslingen a. N., 1922, passim, but especially pp. 23-28 and 131, pls. II, III and IV; J.F. Hayward, 'A Sadeler powder-flask in the Museo Civico, Trieste', Armi Antiche, Turin, 1968, pp. 33-43; Giorgio Dondi, 'Le armi della scuola di Monaco all'Armeria Reale di Torino', ibid., 1978, pp. 65-90; M. Bachtler, P. Diemer and J. Erichsen, 'Die Bestnde von Maximilians I. Kammergalerie. Das Inventar von 1641-42', in H. Glaser, ed., Quellen und Studien zur Kunstpolitik der Wittelsbacher vom 16. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert, Munich and Zrich, 1980, p. 214; C. Spantigati, 'Le armi della scuola di Monaco e i problemi della loro decorazione', in F. Fazzini, ed., L'Armeria Reale di Torino, Busto Arsizio, 1982, pp. 86-93).