A superb bejewelled gem-set repoussé silver Ottoman miquelet flintlock rifle
Ottoman Empire, Turkey, 19th century
The octagonal watered steel 8-faceted barrel is damascened at the muzzle and breech with gold arabesques, with a lock with similar gold decoration dated 1038AH (1628 CE). The full stock is entirely covered in silver repoussé with floral scrolls, showing traces of gilding, decorated with two crescent moon appliques and centrally a star applique inset with cabochon-cut rubies, spinels, beryls, and emeralds.
L. 107.5 cm / L. 72.3 cm (barrel)
- Collection William Randolph Hearst, New York
- Private collection, New York
- Auction Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc., New York, 25 November 1953, lot 27 (ill.)
- Private collection, United States
A famous related example is the bejewelled gun, wrongly attributed as being made for Ottoman sultan Mahmud I (r. 1730- 1754) in the collection of The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (access. no. 51.84). The Baltimore gun, however, conceals compartments for a dazzlingly adorned dagger like the one included with this gun - and a set of writing instruments. However, to get to these, one has to open the hinged door bearing the diamond- encrusted insignia or tughra of Mahmud I and the date AH 1145 (1732/33 CE). This date and the date on the gun present should not be read as the year when it was made but rather as a tribute to the past, a mistake often made by European scholars. Though in other cultures, honouring previous rulers or periods by using their name or insignia on art is very typical. The Ottoman empire evolved around the capital and only provided for its royal court. In their turn, the Sultans could gift these exuberant gifts to local rulers, such as the Khedive of Egypt, a local Shah, the Dey of Algiers or Tunis. Unfortunately, only some have survived the test of time since (probably when the Ottoman empire fell). Choosing a silver or gold coin over a silver or gold gun is more attractive, and most were melted down. Another closely related gun, a miquelet pistol, can be found in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum in New York (access no. 23.232.9), and another comparable 18th century one can be found in Robert Elgoods The Arms of Greece and Her Balkan Neighbours in the Ottoman Period, p. 34.