Lot 896

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A magnificent, superbly-crafted hunting rifle owned and used by Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor of France. The rifle, of Austrian origin, was signed in 1809 by the Viennese master gunsmith Andreas Heueck. It measures 126 cm. (49.6 in.) long overall and 11 cm. (4.3 in.) tall at the top of the stock. This beautiful firearm presents richly chiseled silver fittings in relief present on the trigger guard, with the imperial eagle resting on the chamber, extending into an urn with bouquet and palmettes, signed on the plates by the master Parisian gunsmith Deboubert, probably around 1814 (proof mark, 1809 /1819, master's mark J M starred). Walnut stock, partly squared, carved with foliage around the fittings, very finely carved boar's head on the neck of the stock and star on the cheek. Transformed to percussion by the Parisian armorer Bourdon, located at 19, rue du Roule in Paris, around 1842. On the barrel, in addition to the mark inlaid in gold 'HUJECK IN WIEN 1809', the provenance of the rifle is attested by another engraved inscription 'CARBINE DE NAPOLEON. MISE A PISTON / BY BOURDON RUE DU ROLLE 19 A PARIS'. This rifle was probably in the Schonbrunn Palace. It may have been brought back in the Emperor's luggage after his stay in Vienna from May to October 1809, or that of Marie-Louise upon her arrival in France in 1810, then transformed to into a carbine to suit Napoleon's taste and with the addition of the imperial eagle by Deboubert (probably in 1814, if we consider another rifle attributed to Napoleon and signed by this same gunsmith in 1814, now in the collection of the Museo Napoleonico, Havana). Under the reign of Louis-Philippe, the gunsmith Bourdon was responsible for changing the firing system, as was so often done with weapons of that time. It was during this last intervention that the inscription attesting to the imperial provenance was engraved. Omnipresent in the life of the imperial palace, hunting was one of Napoleon favorite leisure activities, particularly after 1809: '...hunting also served as a metaphor for military victory, Napoleon hunting at the beginning and at the end of each campaign in the company of his allies, or even during the successive occupations of Vienna by French troops...From 1809, the context of hunting changed significantly. On his return from the Austrian campaign, Napoleon stayed in Fontainebleau where he hunted daily. His divorce from Josephine pushed him to adopt hunting as a distraction to overcome his grief. From then on, his interest in hunting seems to have strengthened. Retired to Trianon, he hunted alone, which allowed him to channel his energy in a period of political calm...' (Charles-Eloi Vial, The Imperial Hunts of Napoleon I). The quality of this weapon, its manufacture in Vienna in 1809, precisely the year when Napoleon was there, the contribution of rich silver fittings and the addition of the imperial emblem a few years later, de Boubert having only been active after 1812, coincide with the provenance engraved by Bourdon, the last gunsmith to work on the rifle in the first half of the 19th century. Jean-Louis Deboubert was a worker and apprentice under the brilliant Nicolas-Noel Boutet, Director of the Manufacture de Versailles and Napoleon's chief gunsmith. Holder of numerous patents, Deboubert he was one of the very first to introduce percussion in France with his colleague Prelat. A Deboubert double barrel rifle from 1814 that belonged to Napoleon is also part of the collection of the Museo Napoleonico in Havana. Bourdon is mentioned in 1842 as an armorer, located at 19 rue du Roule in Paris (Almanac-Bottin du commerce de Paris). The Catalog of Patents of Invention of 1852 mentions a '...taken on March 6, 1852, by Bourdon, armorer, in Etampes (Seine et Oise), No. 13147, April 20, 1852, rifle system loading from the breech...'

An astounding historic relic from the personal holdings of the most noted collector of Napoleonic and French royalty relics and documents.

References: Buigné-Jarlier, The Who's Who of Weapons in France, Editions du Portail, 2001, Repertoire, pages 72 and 131); Stocke/Heer I, page 528; Almanac-Directory of commerce in Paris, the departments of France and the principal cities of the world (1842, page LXIII, 45th year of publication): 'Bourdon, arquebusier, Roule, 19'; 'Catalog of patents for invention taken from January 1 to December 31, 1852, drawn up by the Minister of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce, Paris, printing house and bookstore of Mme Ve Bouchard 'Bourdon…'; 'An exceptional 24-bore flintlock double barreled sporting-gun, by Deboubert Paris' (Holts Auctioneers, September 18, 2014, London, lot 400); Osterreich-sammlung Rudolf Pahr Kat. 448-806, June 30, 2017 (Nr. 582).

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January 19, 2024 10:00 AM EST
Chesapeake City, MD, US

Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

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