© copyright Michael Barnett 2016
investment Firearms International
PAIR OF UNMARKED STERLING-SILVER MOUNTED AND STOCK INLAID F/L PISTOLS, MADE IN FRANCE FOR PRESENTATION TO SOME ORIENTAL POTENTATE
These superb pistols are as nice as anything you will find anywhere and much better than most. These very pistols were described by Theodore Dexter in his 1954 “Forty-Two Year’s Scrapbook of Rare Ancient Firearms” thus:-
The lock-plates, hammers and barrels are done to high-raised gold designs. The butt-plates, trigger-guards and side-plates are chiselled silver. Barrels are done in raised gold over damascening.                                     Barrels 11½ inches of about .60 calibre smooth bore. As the whole scheme and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        theme of inlaid silver ornamentation is Martial in character, it can be assumed that                                     this Pair was made for presentation to some Military commander in the Orient. Such high art pistols have been more or less neglected by collectors, in spite of their high color in artistic ornamentation, because of the taint of the usual badly worn Oriental Pistols. Such Pairs as this are not be compared with mill-run Oriental Firearms, for these were made by Boutet, LePage and other great-name French makers.
High praise indeed and I am sure Mr. Dexter was very knowledgeable but he certainly got it wrong back in 1954 when he claimed these pistols were of French manufacture. .
Michael Zomber, amongst many other skills and accomplishments is a well respected world authority on antique arms. He catalogued these pistols for James Julia and was kind enough to answer some questions I had regarding their provenance. I have reproduced his answer below with his permission.
Your pistols are definitely of Ottoman manufacture and perhaps among the finer examples of the type. The Damascus barrels are extraordinarily complex and superb of a quality rarely if ever found on barrels of French make which are invariably far more defined and coarser if you will. Many French makers including Nicholas Noel Boutet, Jean LePage, and most prolifically Louis LaMotte made highly decorated flintlock pistols with raised relief silver-gilt mounts for the Ottoman or Eastern trade as well as for diplomatic or commercial presentation. These are nearly always signed by the maker, usually without a rammer, in the eastern style but lack the magnificent Damascus barrels of the authentic Turkish pistols. In addition the elaborate thick trellis silver inlay appears exclusively on the genuine Ottoman pistols, the French made examples having silver wire and stars but not the wide all encompassing lacework found on your pistols and others. There were superb gunmakers working in Istanbul throughout the latter half of the 18th and into the first half of the 19th century. The Ottoman attempt to engrave the Spanish Order of The Golden Fleece or some other noble or royal order on the thumb pieces is further evidence of their Ottoman make.
If you are interested in Islamic arms I know of no better permanent reference source than the superb books by Dr. Robert Elgood, who has a BA in Islamic History from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University 1975-1979 (where he is now a Research Associate in the Art and Archaeology Dept.)
Dr. Elgood took an interest in the provenance of my pistols and was very generous with his time and expertise, I have learnt much from him and his books regarding Islamic firearms and more particularly, my pistols. The pistols have been previously dated circa 1790 but Dr. Elgood suggests they are later than that by maybe half a century due the them having rainproof pans and based on pistols he has examined at the Tareq Rajab Museum in Kuwait. He suggests the pistols were made in Prizren or Sarajevo and shipped to Istanbul for sale. If you are interested in Dr. Elgood’s notes on my pistols, contact me and I will ask him for permission to reproduce in full.
These Ottoman pistols are know as Kuber or holster pistols and generally did not have integral ramrods due to the likelihood of dropping them when using them from horseback. Instead they carried a separate ramrod or  Suma attached to a lanyard and sash around the waist. Often these ramrods served a dual purpose. We were lucky enough to find this very rare ramrod below which also serves as tweezers. You can see an identical ramrod being used by an Ottoman warrior to hold an ember to light his pipe in this painting by Rudolf Otto Ritter Von Ottenfeld.