Gallery:

An Exceptional Pair of 120 bore Box Lock Pocket Pistols with Silver barrels, Actions and Mounts.

Ref: 563

Price: £20,000

Maker: H. W. Mortimer

Date: 1774

With 1 3/8 inch turn-off two stage cannon barrels divided by raised mouldings, engraved with a band of foliage at the breeches, one numbered 1 beneath, engraved actions decorated with border ornament and signed ‘Mortimer’ on a scroll on the left and inscribed ‘London’ on a scroll on the right, fitted with border-engraved iron steels and ring-neck cocks, engraved tangs decorated with rococo flowers, highly figured rounded walnut butts profusely inlaid with silver wire and engraved silver plaques forming a design of scrolling tendrils, flowers and rococo shells within a wrigglework frame, silver mounts comprising sliding trigger-guard safety-catches with moulded borders and each engraved with a diamond-shaped panel on the bow, vacant silver escutcheons, and grotesque mask butt-caps with engraved borders. Tower private proof marks, Birmingham silver hallmarks for 1774 and silver maker’s mark of Charles Freeth.

Provenance: Clay P. Bedford Collection (inventory no. 1512), one pistol. Christie’s, London, 18th July 2002, lot 339, one pistol (£11,700 incl premium).

Bonhams, London, 30th November 2011, lot 391, the pair (£22,500 incl premium).

The Estate of Howard Lee Munson (1940-2019).

Exhibited: Early Firearms of Great Britain and Ireland from the Collection of Clay P. Bedford, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1971, cat. no. 197.

Literature: Clay P. Bedford and Stephen V. Grancsay, Early Firearms of Great Britain and Ireland from the Collection of Clay P. Bedford, exhibition catalogue, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1971, pp. 174 and 177.

H. Lee Munson, The Mortimer Gunmakers 1753-1923, 1992, pp. 151-152, pl. 234.

Notes: Pistols with silver barrels and actions are very rare and this delightful little pair is probably unique. As Munson states, they are among the earliest known examples of H.W. Mortimer’s work. They demonstrate the maker’s intention to seek customers who wanted more in terms of workmanship, artistry and quality and who had the wherewithal to pay for it!