Sotheby’s to Auction Pistols Napoléon Gave His 3-Year-Old Son

The two pistols.
Photo: courtesy Sotheby's.

For the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Sotheby’s London will offer two ornate, child-size pistols at the treasures sale on July 8, according to Art Daily.

Dated from 1814 and estimated to sell between £800,000 – 1.2 million ($1.24 million – 1.86 million), the gold-inlaid pistols are reportedly the last gift Napoléon Bonaparte gave to his three-year-old son before  military defeat and subsequent exile.

Crafted by revered French gunsmith Jean Lepage, the gold encrusted pair of matching pistols each have emblazoned Napoleonic symbols, such as the capital ‘N’ and the Imperial eagle.

The pistols were acquired by English souvenir collector and entrepreneur, William Bullock in 1816. Bullock was known for staging extravagant exhibitions of Napoleonic memorabilia and natural history at his famous Egyptian Hall in London’s Piccadilly area.

His eclectic space hosted European royalty, as well as authors such as Jane Austen. After the fire sale of the hall’s 32,000 items in 1819, the two pistols entered the collection of Countess of Strafford, an Anglo-American socialite, and then onto the antique firearms connoisseur and author William Keith Neal.

At the time, Neal was one of the most prolific British collectors of firearms; his collection included thousands of weapons and accessories worth millions of dollars. He also wrote a much-referenced book on the history of British gunmaking from the 16th century to the end of the “muzzle-loading era” in 1860.

In 2011, Christie’s watch sale had a pair of 1820 gold and gem-embellished Frères Rochat “singing bird” pistols, which sold for $5.8 million. However, these were ornamental works created by Swiss brothers for the amusement of the Imperial court in China.


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