El Libertador, Simon Bolivar's Cased Pair of Flintlock Pistols by Nicolas-Nöel Boutet, Directeur Artiste, La Manufacture d'armes de Versailles, c. 1804-06
The sighted, swamped octagonal barrels of .47 caliber (12mm), inscribed Boutet Directeur Artiste, decorated with gold damascened panels at muzzles of flaming orbs and at breeches of trophies of arms and floral swags, struck three times at each breech with oval maker's cartouches CB, NB, LC; the underside of barrels again stamped LC and additionally faintly-inscribed "Cazamajou"; burnished steel tangs engraved with classical floral motifs, gold lined touch-holes, stepped lock-plates with chamfered edges and ball-finials engraved on flats "Boutet Directeur" and "Manufre a' Versailles" respectively; the locks mounted with swan necked cocks, roller feather-springs, semi-waterproof pans and decoratively engraved hammers; walnut fullstocks have geometrically-framed checkered panels on grips, floral treatments and border moldings, carved in relief, decorate the stocks overall; single set-triggers, steel trigger-guards with finely chiseled decorative floral motifs and pineapple finials, the grips furnished with burnished steel pommel caps each with deeply chiseled leaf-moldings surrounding edges; burnished octagonal ramrod pipes, mahogany ramrods with bulbous ivory finials; the pair contained within their original mahogany case with ebonized-beading along edges fitted in the French manner with green-baize and gold-piping bordered, contoured compartments, the casing is complete with its original accesories including plunger-charger powder-flask formed of pressed-horn and bound by gilt-brass straps; burnished steel ball-mold with integral sprue-cutter; two brass-mounted mahogany rods, one with integral powder-measure; mahogany seating-mallet; walnut-handled turn-screw; mahogany-handled, burnished steel, flint-knapper; steel cleaning rod; three-piece oil vessel; vent-pricker and jag, two small lidded compartments, one containing many patches for loading the pistols. The case's lid inlaid with silver-plaque inscribed:
"Manuela Saenz saluda al Señor/Ricardo Stonhewer (sic) Illingworth, y le ofrece esta caja de pistolas por/haver sido esta del uso del Libertador. Bogota/Junio 1. de 1830. [Cypher]"
295mm barrels (11 5/8 inches), Case: 19 x 11 7/8 x 4 inches
Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest practicioners of his craft in the 19th century, Nicolas-Nöel Boutet (1761- 1833), Directeur Artiste, La Manufacture d'armes de Versailles, was the son of Nöel Boutet, Arquebusier des chevaux legers dy Roi, and husband of Louise-Emilie Desaintes, daughter of Peirre Desaintes, the gun-maker to Louis XVI. Nicolas Boutet's gun-making concession at Versailles ran from 1800-1818. In 1804, after the coronation of Bonaparte, the name was changed to Manufucture Imperiale (though this is not always reflected on the arms themselves). With the termination of his concession in 1818, Boutet was forced to move to Paris, but by 1822 his fortunes had soured to the point of disastrous bankruptcy. He died in Paris in 1833. (Stockel)
The silver plaque on the pistols' case lid is as detailed as a more conventional letter of presentation and a deeply emblematic document of Bolivar's last months. It is an integral part of the case, defeating time and circumstance that could have removed a separate letter of presentation from its original context. Here, we are provided with the date and place of presentation and assurance from Manuela to the recipient that Bolivar actually owned these pistols; insuring that it is remembered that they were very much the General's and as such a very personal gift.
Manuela, famously outspoken in her opinions both positive and negative of the character of Bolivar's officers and advisors, chose her words carefully before having them inscribed in silver. Manuela Saenz Ialutesi 'Ricardo' Illingworth in the presentation and Iffersi him the pistols Isedi by El Libertador. Such a personal tribute to Illingworth (illustrated by her use of the intimate cypher of intertwined hearts - a particularly personal aspect of her correspondence little known until relatively recently) suggests not only a profound gratitude on the part of both Manuela and Bolivar for what Richard had done, but given that the gift is a pair of pistols, perhaps also a singular acknowledgement of the importance and possible danger of this unknown mission.
BOLIVAR IN PARIS
The death of his bride Maria Teresa to fever less than a year after their marriage saw Bolivar return to Spain where he had been educated and had met his wife. He stayed there a few months before arriving in Paris in May, 1804, the guest of his cousin Countess Fanny du Villars, the wife of a Napoleonic general who was much older and frequently away. Bolivar and Fanny had met during his time in Bilbao while he courted Maria Teresa, and on the strength of Fanny's maiden name being found in his family tree, it was decided they were thus related. He joined her social circle and she became his confidante and by all accounts, his mistress. While Bolivar moved through Parisian society guided by Fanny's elegant hand, he underwent the changes in ambition noted by so many biographers, from a young liberal to a man committed to liberation.
Of course, Bolivar did not neglect his personal freedom. Many biographers remark that he indulged Paris as fully as any wealthy widower at the age of 21 could. His vast profligacy at the gaming tables and tailors along with his frequent custom at the Palais Royal galleries and general indulgences might be those of any young man with a surfeit of distractions.
Bolivar had come close to duelling a rival for Fanny (Masur p. 49), possibly the impetus for the acquistion of the present pistols, or perhaps the pistols were a gift from her, as she was fond of indulging her young lover and naturally familiar with the accoutrements appropriate to a gentleman; the deluxe arms from Boutet's workshop at Versailles certainly epitomized 1st Empire fashions and sensibilities. Fanny's brother Jacques Denis de Trobriand (with whom Bolivar corresponded in 1804) was an officer of the Hussars. He was a devoted Bonapartist and noted duellist doubtless acquainted with the arms of Boutet, the finest gunsmith in France and a gun-maker to Napoleon. The signature of the Inspector of Arms at Versailles under Boutet, "Cazamajou", found on the barrels' underside of the pistols allows scholars to date the manufacture of the guns to precisely the years 1804-1806. These were the only two years that Jean Cazamajou held the position and the time corresponds exactly with the duration of Bolivar's stay in Paris. His address in the city, the Hotel de Etrangers at No.2 Rue de la Vivienne, was one street from Boutet's showroom on Rue de Richelieu (Rivero, 163). Interestingly, Bolivar also owned a gold pocketwatch by the maker Lozet, of 164 Rue de Rivoli, again a short walk from his address in 1804.
Bolivar departed the city in March 1805 for Rome. He returned to Paris in April, 1806 for a farewell to Fanny with an exchange of gifts in order (it is noted he gave her a ring) and to the city that helped him mature and awaken his great ambitions for the future of South American independence. In September, he embarked for Venezuela. (Masur p. 60)
Manuela Saenz was Bolivar's mistress from 1822 until his death in 1830. There was no option for a legal union, given his promise to never remarry after his wife's death and Manuela's own unhappy arranged marriage. Immersed in politics before meeting him, her role in the bloodless fall of Lima to San Martin on July 21, 1821 earned her the coveted Order of the Sun, the first honor given by the new Republic of Peru. Their legendary romance began when Bolivar was struck in the face by a laurel wreath Manuela had thrown from a balcony during his June 16, 1822 victory procession into Quito. The two met formally at a victory ball given in his honor that evening.
By 1830, Manuela's official role in Bolivar's life seemed a natural progression. She had joined his staff in October 1823 at the suggestion of his aide-de-camp, General Daniel O'Leary, was given the rank of colonel and placed in charge of Bolivar's archives. The uniform (which of course she wore) was not merely ceremonial. Manuela was present at the decisive battle of Ayacucho, the victory that finally won South American independence from Spain and her conduct on the field was praised to Bolivar by no less than the battle's hero, Antonio Jose de Sucre. (Prada 111-2)
Manuela again showed her courage on the night of September 25, 1828. At midnight, a Royalist assassination party of ten cut the throats of the sentries and gained entry to the palace, only to be discovered by the hounds, whose barking alerted the household. Manuela awakened Bolivar and told him to dress. Hearing the shouts of "Long live Liberty!" and "Death to Bolivar!" he reached for the door and she stopped him. "Bravo, I am dressed," he said, "what do we do now, barricade ourselves?" (von Hagen, 215-17). Manuela instead opened the bedroom window, and Bolivar waited to make the jump to the street until no passerby were present. Then taking his sword and a pair of pistols he slipped from the bedroom. Moments later the assassination party burst in.
The conspirator's lanterns found an open window, a warm bed, and Manuela facing them sword in hand and professing no knowledge of Bolivar's whereabouts. They searched to no avail, and quickly turned their attention to her. Only the intervention of a French officer in the coup party prevented them from fully venting their anger. "We are not here to kill women", he said. However, they could beat them, and they made Manuela pay for helping Bolivar escape. Boussingault later wrote that Manuela was in bed for almost two weeks after the beating and that "Long, long afterward you could see the imprint of a blow on Manuelita's forehead." Her courage earned her the from Bolivar, "La Libertadora del Libertador." (Ibid.)
In an August 1850 letter to O'Leary recounting the assassination attempt, Manuela recalls how many of the foreign officers and friends rushed to the palace in the aftermath of the failed coup, "among them Mr. Illingrot (sic) and all were very well received."(Rumanzo 181-85)
This "Illingrot" was Richard (Ricardo) Illingworth, the younger brother of Admiral John (Juan) Illingworth, an officer on Bolivar's staff and a friend of Manuela's. (The Admiral was away in Guayaquil at the time of the assassination attempt.) While it is well known that the Admiral often looked after Manuela care in Bolivar's absence, Richard Stonehewer Illingworth was also deeply involved with the General's household as an advisor to Bolivar in his financial affairs. In fact, he was trusted to administer Bolivar's finances after his final departure from Bogota in May 8, 1830. It is Richard who is the recipient of the present pistols, presented on Simon Bolivar's behalf by Manuela Saenz on June 1, 1830.
Bolivar had left the city three weeks earlier while Manuela remained behind. He died in Santa Marta on December 17, 1830, without ever reuniting with Manuela. Only a few letters between them from this final separation survive. Manuela lived on another 26 years, eventually settling in Paita, Peru, a political exile for her devotion to Bolivar and his memory. The trunks of remaining effects and correspondence from Bolivar she had so faithfully kept were all burned to prevent the spread of the diphtheria epidemic that killed her in 1856.
BOLIVAR AND RICHARD ILLINGWORTH
Simon Bolivar depleted a splendid patrimony for liberty's cause and though he controlled the revenue of three nations at one time, he never availed himself of public funds in order to ease his considerable debt. To make matters worse, Bolivar was a generous man, spending freely and giving much away. In 1830 the situation was dire as the 30,000 pesos yearly for life that the Colombian congress voted to grant upon his departure from the presidency was impossible to pay with the nation's near bankruptcy. He was also taking a considerable retinue of officers with him into exile.
Help in these matters had come in the past from Richard Stonehewer Illingworth, and it was a relationship that extended beyond the General's unfortunate finances in the latter years. Part of Bolivar's inner circle, Richard was also a friend of Richard Ninian Cheyne, Bolivar's last doctor.
Richard Illingworth (1797-1884) began his career in the army pay department in Lisbon. He progressed to Whitehall in 1819 and in 1822 joined the firm Jones, Powles, Hurry & Co as a director of their Colombian interests in Bogota. One of the partners, John Diston Powles, became infamous for his promotion of speculative mining in the new Latin American republics. One of his companies floated a substantial loan to the Colombian government in 1822, while another funded the equipment and shipping of some 800 British mercenaries to the country. Unfortunately, most of Powles' mining ventures proved disastrous for the investors, including Simon Bolivar, who Powles had engaged as a partner in one venture, with the result that Powles was finally bankrupted in 1826 and Bolivar was hounded by British creditors for the rest of his life. (Eakin pp. 22-3)
By 1830, one of the last of what once had been numerous assets left to Bolivar were the Aroa mines. Given the tumultuous political climate in Venezuela at that time, he was left uncertain if his title to this property would even be upheld. Still, it was desperately needed income. "They say that my ownership of the property is not legal, and that for a man in my position there are no laws. I don't need anything for myself ... for I am accustomed to military life. However, the honor of my country and my position alike oblige me to appear decently, especially since it is known that I was born to wealth." (Cartas, Vol.IX)
Bolivar had long depended on income from family mines. In a letter of September 27, 1827 Bolivar records the sale of mine shares to one of Powles' companies in London, for an unspecified sum, but a penciled notation in Richard Illingworth's hand on verso provides details, "General Bolivar 2nd Exchange $22,414." This was a considerable sum in 1827, equivalent to over $300,000 in modern funds and the note "2nd exchange" indicative of the ongoing business between Illingworth and Bolivar.(Illingworth Mss.)
It was a relationship with which Bolivar was obviously comfortable. Richard's brother was part of the General's inner circle of officers and advisors, many of them British. John Illingworth was one of the military emigris who had fought under Wellington, and in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars came to South America to seek their fortunes. He attained the rank of Admiral in the Bolivian Navy, became the most eminent republican naval hero of the war and founded the Naval College at Guayaquil upon a mandate from Bolivar. Bolivar held him in the highest esteem, remarking in a letter: "that Illingworth is the most capable seafaring man we have." (Lecuna, p. 610). Illingworth was one of the few officers Bolivar admitted to receiving no complaints about and is described as "an old friend of hers and a passionate partisan of his" by Von Hagen. Bolivar obviously held his brother Richard in similar regard.
Richard Illingworth's deep involvement in Bolivar's affairs escalated after the General departed Bogota on the May 8, 1830. Where John was often given the purse strings to distribute money to Manuela, the task for handling finances with those looking to be paid on old debts fell to Richard. A letter to Richard in Bogota on May 10, 1830 reveals this in part: "Fernando Bolivar told me that you have the Liberator's money in hand and he would advise you to pay me $100 against the receipt of an old claim." In fact, Richard's business correspondence mentions the settling of similar claims four years after Bolivar's death. (Illingworth Mss.)
The circumstances of Richard's mission for Bolivar, a mission the General profusely thanks him for in an August 1830 letter, are intriguing, coming not only at a juncture when Illingworth's financial negotiations regarding Bolivar's interests in the Aroa mines would be of great importance, but also when there was a belated movement afoot in Colombia to return Bolivar to the Presidency. Aiding this cause was Garcia del Rio, who also wrote a circumspect letter to Richard Illingworth on October 2, 1830 concerning "indications" the Liberator had conveyed to Urdaneta that might bring him back to Bogota. The ensuing coup was a success, but Bolivar, depleted and disillusioned, refused to take the mantle once again.(Ibid.)
In addition to the cased pistols, there is another gift indicative of the great affection and gratitude which Richard Illingworth was held by both Simon Bolivar and Manuela Saenz. This very personal memento of El Libertador remains in Richard Illingworth's papers within a small envelope. The following note is in Richard's hand on the outside:
"General Simon Bolivar/Founder of these Republics-/& Liberator-died. /17 Dec 1830/this hair was cut after his death & was given to me /in Guaduas on 10 Jan 1831 by /Dona Manuela Saenz." (Illingworth Mss.)
Inside is the profuse lock of hair as noted. We have found no other record of such a gift or item in any collection.
OTHER BOLIVAR PISTOLS
Objects with a strong Simon Bolivar association are as uncommon in the marketplace as those of George Washington or Napoleon, and arms owned by the General are truly rare. Pistols owned by Bolivar are almost unknown. Previously, only one other pair of pistols (also made by Nicolas Boutet) has come to market in the past 100 years. Only a single pistol is found in museum collections. (By contrast, five pairs of George Washington's pistols are accounted for.) Unfortunately, almost all of the arms mentioned in letters and contemporary accounts as having Bolivar provenance appear to be lost to the ages.
Bolivar received many gifts as befitting a gentleman, officer and politician, especially during the heady years of 1822-1825. Prominent citizens of freshly liberated cities, friends, political admirers both home and abroad, lovers, the wealthy women of Lima all sought to either impress, help fund the cause, or simply pay tribute through medals, medallions, gold and silver services and saddles (he was quite a horseman) to El Libertador. Sadly, the tumult of Bolivar's last seven peripatetic months, his precarious financial situation, removal from power and unjust reputation in the years immediately following his death, contributed to the survival of remarkably few of his personal effects.
But remarkable objects have survived. A Christie's catalogue of 14 personal items to be offered on May 18, 1988, was the most significant Bolivar-related offering in the last thirty-years, but contained no arms. The group was sold en bloc to the Banco de Venezuela.
The existence of provenanced pistols is almost anecdotal. A single pistol part of an incomplete pair of English pistols, circa 1800, resides in La Quinta de Bolivar. The second pistol from this pair is presumably lost.
Bolivar's will lists two "mismatched pistols" as being given to Valentin Villars, (likely a relative of his and Fanny du Villars), the whereabouts of which are unknown. Also lost is a pair acquired by a young Bolivar in Haiti about 1818. The most intriguing of these lost guns are those mentioned as gifts from Jose de San Martin to Bolivar in the "Lafond Letter", a document whose authenticity has long been debated by Bolivarian scholars. Indeed, these pistols and others may well still exist but are so long separated from any knowledge of their original association that their historical importance remains unrecognized.
Thus a mere two sets of Bolivar's arms survive; the present campaign pistols presented by Manuela Saenz to 'Ricardo' Illingworth and the pair sold in London in 1973, also made by Boutet, a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette in 1826. Interestingly, Lafayette was apparently fond of pistols as gifts. A pair of holster pistols that he gave to General George Washington about 1779 was auctioned by Christie's in January, 2002 for $1.92 million, the current record for a pair of pistols. Doubtless Lafayette picked Boutet as the maker of the guns he presented to Bolivar because of his familiarity with the De Trobriand and Du Villars families, from whom he must have known of the General's appreciation of Boutet's work.
The present pair of campaign pistols presented to Ricardo Illingworth was made two decades earlier than those presented to Bolivar from Lafayette. Bolivar's use of these pistols is documented on the accompanying presentation from Manuela Saenz. Given the date of manufacture versus the date of presentation to Illingworth twenty-years later, Bolivar owned them throughout his entire revolutionary career. Thus these cased pistols were silent witnesses to some of the most momentous events in South American history.
The presentation of the present pistols to Illingworth was analogous to Bolivar's gift of the Lafayette Boutets to Jose Ignazio Paris. Paris was another close friend who aided Bolivar financially and one of three men along with Richard's brother Admiral John Illingworth and General Urdaneta, whom he trusted with the care of Manuela Saenz. An 1851 document by Enrique Grice recounts the purchase of the Lafayette Boutet pistols from Paris' son, Enrique Paris. They were eventually sold as part of the William Goodwin Renwick collection, for a record sum, at Sotheby's London in March, 1973 and are now in a private collection.
The emergence of additional pistols with Bolivar provenance is highly unlikely. Even if any of the aforementioned "lost" guns were to surface, it is doubtful if any could match the quality or association of this present pair which links events and ideas in Bolivar's momentous life with an intimacy and immediacy that nothing previously discovered can compare.
The Simon Bolivar Boutet Campaign Pistols remain peerless among the historical arms of South American in either private or museum collections. Their sale presents a unique opportunity to acquire pistols used by El Libertador in the War for South American Independence and an unsurpassed romantic icon of his relationship with Manuela Saenz, by virtue of their presentation through her.
Christie's would like to thank Conor FitzGerald and Richard Austin for the cataloguing of this lot. The authors would like to thank Stuart W. Phyrr, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Curator of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of art for his gracious assistance with research on Jean Cazamajou.
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