Historical Arms and Armours
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See also : Blade and armour Firearms II India Islam Wild West Later Colts US Civil War Revolution and Empire
Chronology : 1460-1479 1790-1799 1800-1809 1860-1869
2010 SOLD for £ 2.3M by Christie's
Cumbria, later Cumberland, is the north-west of England (Britannia), on the border of Scotland (Caledonia). From 875AUC, this territory was protected in the north by the Hadrian wall.
The era of Pax Romana is unique in world history: between the reigns of Augustus and Trajan, the Roman domination was total, without invasion and with limited civil wars. This political success that spans over a century is based on a strong network of garrisons located throughout the borders of the Empire.
Our helmet is necessarily subsequent to the conquests of Vespasian, begun in 824AUC. Christie's dates it to the late first century or to the second century of our calendar.
It is an equipment for parade or sport, not a military helmet. It is composed of two parts. The bronze Phrygian shaped cap is topped by a griffin crest where streamers could be tied. The face mask bearing the likeness of a young man is in tin plated bronze.
It was sold for £ 2.3M from a lower estimate of £ 200K by Christie's on October 7, 2010.
The image is shared on Wikimedia with attribution : Portable Antiquities Scheme from London, England [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Mamluk Shirt of Mail
2015 SOLD for $ 2.3M by RIAC
On December 5, 2015, RIAC sold for $ 2.3M from a lower estimate of $ 200K a Mamluk shirt of mail and plate, lot 1262.
The weaving of this garment is the simplest and most effective model where each ring is linked with its four surrounding rings. The coat opens from the front side. At the front and back of the garment, the plates are inlaid with a gilding of koftgari type.
Inscriptions are difficult to read, but the reference to the Mamluk Sultan Qaitbay seems indisputable. It was probably created for the sultan himself or one of his riders. A similar armor assigned to the same reign is preserved at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Qaitbay ruled Egypt from 871 to 901 AH, during the last quarter of the 15th century of our calendar.
This piece is in a very satisfactory condition for its age. A few rings and a few plate rivets are missing or twisted. About 60% of the koftgari is present with a particularly good conservation on the front of the shirt.
Nasrid Ear Dagger
2010 SOLD for £ 3.7M by Sotheby's
It had also to protect the hand, and the ear dagger was appreciated by hunters and soldiers. In this model, the guard consists of two flat disks (the "ears") confronting on both sides of the handle.
A refined specimen was sold for £ 3.7M from a lower estimate of £ 600K on October 6, 2010 by Sotheby's. Coming from Nasrid Spain, this piece has been made in the 9th century AH, more than 500 years ago. The final defeat of the Nasrids by Ferdinand and Isabella was in 1492 of our calendar.
With a total length of 30 cm, it is finely damascened with scenes of hunting and with cartouches including Kufic-style inscriptions.
1628 Mughal Kard
2019 SOLD for $ 3.4M by Christie's
On June 19, 2019, Christie's sold at lot 387 for $ 3.4M from a lower estimate of $ 1.5M a kard which attests to the cosmopolitan character of Mughal art.
The kard is a belt knife made of a straight blade with a handle but without a guard. The example sold by Christie's is 30 cm long overall including a hardened steel blade and a 11 cm handle. The gold inlays on the top side of the blade are Persian in style.
The handle is of an extremely rare type, which has not revealed its secrets. It is made of very pale green jade, which the Mughals imported from China. Its terminal serving as a pommel is a head carved in the round, with a ruff. This head is unusual in Hindu art but corresponds to the taste of Europeans, who did not work with jade.
A human head above the scabbard of a dagger appears in a posthumous image of Jahangir, showing the prince before his accession to the throne. A similar attribute also exists on an image recalling the youth of Shah Jahan. There is no reason to suppose that the blade and the handle were prepared at the same time. We will retain the hypothesis of an assembly carried out in the transition phase between these two emperors. The color of the jade seems consistent with this assumption.
The realistic head of the juvenile-looking character suggests that he was enough beloved by a high Mughal dignitary, perhaps an emperor, to be displayed on his belt. No hypothesis is proposed concerning his identity. I suggest this is the posthumous portrait of a brother or son of an emperor. The ruff is unexplained.
2016 SOLD for £ 2M by Sotheby's
Kangxi creates a nature reserve for the exclusive use of imperial hunting in the vast territory of Rehe. As anything from Kangxi, this choice is wise. Rehe is located between Manchuria from where the Qing were coming and Mongolia whose alliance was politically valuable for the consolidation of the new dynasty.
Qianlong is like his grandfather an avid hunter who often stays in Rehe where he welcomes foreign diplomats in his yurt in a less formal surrounding than in Beijing. His Mongol friends are using arrow and spear. The emperor knows easily to display his own superiority as the bullet from his musket reaches more distant animals. Qianlong is a skilled shooter.
On November 9, 2016, Sotheby's sold for £ 2M from a lower estimate of £ 1M a rare matchlock musket with the imperial mark of Qianlong, lot 100, which is probably the only example in private hands.
This deluxe firearm was manufactured by the imperial workshops. An undeciphered inscription may be the name of the gunsmith. This piece was identified in period as the best in its class by a control mark certifying it as Supreme Grade Number 1.
It is not dated but could have been made in the last years of the reign. Same as for clocks, the imperial craftsmen were reproducing the European techniques. The Chinese musket has similarities with a British firearm presented in Rehe by Lord Macaulay to Qianlong for celebrating his 80th anniversary in 1793 of our calendar.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
1799 The Bedchamber Sword of Tipu Sultan
2023 SOLD for £ 14M by Bonhams
The Sultan died in battle in 1799 CE during the siege of his capital Seringapatam. Entering his locked bedchamber, the British observed that the Sultan had lived in constant alert. He used to sleep in a hammock suspended from the ceiling with a pair of pistols and a sword within reach by his side.
That single edged Mughal steel sword with a double edged point follows a model of 16th century German blades. The straight blade 38 mm wide is mounted with a hilt and kept in a velvet covered silver gilt wooden scabbard. The overall length in scabbard is 108 cm.
The gold inlaid calligraphy of the hilt records five of the qualities of God and two invocations calling on God by name. Each of the qualities and one of the invocations are repeated several times. An inscription translates as 'The Sword of the Ruler'.
The sword was presented on the spot by the army to Major General Baird who had led the successful assault on Seringapatam. From the Baird archives, it was sold for £ 150K before fees by Dix Noonan Webb on September 19, 2003, lot 3. It was sold for £ 14M by Bonhams on May 23, 2023, lot 175P.
1797-1808 Garniture of Boutet Arms
2021 SOLD for $ 2.9M by RIAC
The son of an arquebusier of Louis XVI, Boutet continued his career at Versailles. In 1792, when Prussia declares war on France, Benezech and Boutet are commissioned for creating an arms factory. They use for that purpose a wide disabled part of the palace, where they will produce carbines but also locks.
Such an official mission is also in the trend of the revolutionary decision to put an end to the privileges of the corporations, with a favorable consequence in Boutet's ability to hire the best workers from Europe.
The production by Boutet of presentation rifles, pistols and swords is responding to a request certainly made by the Premier Consul himself, probably as early as 1800. In 1806, when he granted new kingdoms to his brothers, Napoléon offered them weapons of the highest luxury.
In the following of Napoléon's defeat and abdication, a case of magnificently relief carved imperial arms is exhibited in London in 1816. This garniture is made of a glaive sword with its scabbard, a carbine, a pair of carriage pistols and a pair of pocket pistols. All these pieces have been manufactured by Boutet. The highly dense decoration is made of imperial symbols and Greco-Roman designs.
The provenance of this collection is referred to Général Junot, the aide de camp of the emperor. The garniture should have been presented by Napoléon to Junot at any time but tentatively when he was made gouverneur général of Portugal in 1807 or duc d'Abrantès in 1808. It had been sold by his widow in financial distress during the events of 1815.
The glaive is described as the robe sword carried in hand by Bonaparte in 1799 at Saint-Cloud during his coup d'Etat du 18 brumaire an VIII when he suppressed the Directoire for appointing himself as Premier Consul. It is supposed to have been presented to him by the Directoire in 1797. The five firearms have no evidence of having been carried by the emperor.
The collection was sold for $ 2.9M from a lower estimate of $ 1.5M by RIAC on December 3, 2021, lot 335. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1800 The Marengo Sabre of Napoléon
2007 SOLD for € 4.8M by Osenat
Bonaparte immediately understood the advantage of this feat of arms for his personal prestige and for his political future. On May 5, 1805 Bonaparte, who had become Emperor Napoléon I in the meantime, had a throne installed for a military parade on the battlefield. He presides over this ceremony, dressed in the same way as on the day of the battle.
Also in 1805, Napoléon presented his youngest brother Jérôme with the glorious sabre which he had brandished at Marengo. Jérôme, 20 years old, had just returned from the United States where he had married, thwarting the ambition that the emperor could have for him. Napoléon broke this marriage by an imperial decree on March 11, 1805. Having henceforth consolidated his image of a magnificent warrior, he may have used this arm to encourage Jérôme's new military career in his service.
The sabre remained until 2007 with the descendants of Jérôme. Classified as a French monument historique in 1978, it was sold for € 4.8M by Osenat on June 10, 2007. Please watch the video shared by Interencheres.
This arm had been produced by Nicolas-Noël Boutet, the manager of the arms factory in Versailles. The blade has an oriental shape and is decorated with etching. The main fittings for the sabre and its scabbard are in solid gold. The pommel is a Jupiter head in gold.
1863 US Grant's Remington Revolvers
2022 SOLD for $ 5.2M by RIAC
Remington released in 1863 their New Model Army revolver. The serial numbers 1 and 2 were presented in the summer or fall of 1863 or in early 1864 to Grant as a cased set by two veterans made wealthy from the cotton trade. The ivory grips were carved in raised relief with his bust on one side and US attributes including the flying eagle on the opposite side. These unsigned figures were made by the master engraver Louis D. Nimschke.
Hidden from public view, the pair surfaced on display in the Las Vegas Antique Arms Show in 2018. Offered in its deluxe rosewood case, was sold for $ 5.2M from a lower estimate of $ 1M by RIAC on May 13, 2022, lot 106. Both revolvers are in excellent condition with a deep sharp engraving. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Russia, which was a staunch ally to the Union, followed that example. In 1864, after a visit of the Russian fleet to the USA, their government commissioned another pair from the same model for presentation to Tsar Alexander II. Their ivory grips are decorated in raised relief, the left side with the Russian double headed eagle and the opposite side with the same US attributes as on the Grant revolvers. Nimschke signed these pieces with his trademark.
Re-united in 1991 by a keen historian after being separated since the Russian Revolution, the Russian pair in an exceptionally fine condition was sold for $ 460K by RIAC on May 15, 2021, lot 1158.
Remington New Model Army revolvers presented to Civil War general & 18th U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant sold for $5,170,000 (est. $1/3 million) May 13 at @RIAuction https://t.co/LL2Y9iwwcJ #antiques #antique #vintage #appraisal #Americana #gun #guns #Grant #POTUS #Remington pic.twitter.com/LcartuGeoR— Maine Antique Digest (@AntiqueDigest) June 22, 2022
1880-1881 the Colt that killed Billy the Kid
2021 SOLD for $ 6M by Bonhams
In November 1880, Pat Garrett is elected sheriff of the county. Although his term was to begin on January 1, he immediately obtains a commission to pursue Billy the Kid within the limits of the county. On December 13 a $ 500 bounty is posted by the governor for the capture of the outlaw.
On December 23 Billy the Kid and his whole gang are captured by Garrett and his men. Sentenced to hang, Billy escapes from custody on April 28. While in jail his notoriety had raised through the local gazettes.
Garrett is not yet awarded with the bounty. On July 14, in search for the fugitive, he discusses the issue with a ranch owner. Around midnight a man enters the room in the dark. Garrett will state that he had recognized the voice of Billy the Kid. He fires twice and kills the man.
The revolver that killed Billy the Kid is a Colt Single Action Army made in 1880, taken near new by Garrett when he arrested the gang on November 23. It was sold for $ 6M from a lower estimate of $ 2M by Bonhams on August 27, 2021, lot 11.
The corpse was certified by the local justice of the peace but the reward was not paid to Garrett. He managed to respond to the rumors that he had been unfair. His biographical account of Billy the Kid co-authored by an itinerant journalist was considered as factual in period. It contributed to transform that ferocious but enigmatic desperado into the major folk hero of the Wild West.
A doubt still subsists on who was killed by Garrett on July 14. On July 28 a local newspaper reported that the outlaw had allowed his beard to grow and had stained his skin brown to look like a Mexican. Dead or alive, the mythic gang leader never resumed his criminal industry.