Flintlock sporting gun - part of the Tula Garniture from Royal Armouries collection
Purchased at auction from Sotheby's, 21 April 1950, lot 6. Formerly Denys A. Burnett-Hitchcock Collection
The lock is chiseled with rococo scroll work and trophies of arms on a gilt background. There is a sliding safety-catch to the rear of the cock and the frizzle incorporates an additional pan cover operated by a lever in the back of the steel, which may be closed separately to act as a further safety device. This ingenious feature was not confined to arms produced in Tula, and may also be found on a number of other guns in the Royal Armouries collection, notably a sporting gun signed LORENZONI FIRENZE dating from around 1695 (XII.1692).
The stock is inlaid in silver wire with scroll work, and in addition on the butt with silver plaques cut out and engraved with trophies of arms, classical figures and sporting scenes. The steel furniture is decorated to match the lock and barrel. The silver-gilt escutcheon is formed as the Imperial Russian Eagle with, in the centre, a cartouche decorated with the figure of a horseman.
The barrel is decorated for its entire length with asymmetrical scroll-work and trophies on a gold ground, matching the ornament of the lock and furniture. Near the breech is the crowned monogram of Empress Elizabeth, and half way down its length, the inscription TULA 1752.
BarrelLength44 inches Barrel Length 1118 mm Overall Length 59.5 inches Overall Length 1511 mm Overall Weight 3.43 kg
Inscriptions and Marks
TULA 1752 barrel
Royal Armouries, Royal Armouries Museum [souvenir guide], Royal Armouries, Leeds, 2000, p.25, colour ill. (right side view, stock and lock only, with XIII.150)
This sporting gun, along with a pair of pistols (XII.1505-6), a powder flask (XIII.150) and a pair of stirrups (VI.356-7), forms part of a fine hunting garniture.
Hunting garnitures usually consist of a selection of matching firearms and accessories, sometimes including edged weapons. They were produced in some numbers in the eighteenth century, especially in Germany and Russia. In Russia such garnitures became the speciality of the state small-arms factory established in 1712 in the central Russian town of Tula, which had been a centre of the gunmaking trade since the end of the sixteenth century. The state factory at Tula was principally intended to manufacture the service arms of the Russian army, but soon began to produce luxury , especially those intended for presentation by the Russian government to foreign monarchs, nobles and dignitaries.
A number of Tula garnitures survive, varying in date between 1745 and 1781.
This garniture consists of a sporting gun and a pair of pistols, all three firearms bearing the monogram of Empress Elizabeth of Russia (reigned 1741-62) and dated 1752, together with a powder flask and a pair of stirrups, neither of which are either dated or marked with the Imperial monogram. It is probable they were associated with the guns in the late eighteenth century.
The steel parts of the garniture are decorated with chiseled ornament on a gold ground which is characteristic of the Tula factory. As with most Russian weapons of this period, all the decoration is in the French style, and is here based closely upon the designs published by De Lacollombe about 1706 and by Nicholas Guerard in 1719. Indeed the silver inlaid decoration on the butt of the sporting gun is almost an exact copy of one of Guerard's designs.
The history of this garniture is uncertain, but it appears that it was brought from Moscow in 1812 by Chevalier Louis Guerin de Bruslart, a colourful character, who at the time appears to have been acting as a bourbon agent attached to the invading French army. Shortly afterwards on a visit to London, Bruslart befriended one William Vardon, an ironmonger of Gracechurch Street, with whom he left the garniture, probable as security for a loan. The garniture remained in his and his descendants possession until its sale in London in 1950. In 1883 William Vardon's nephew claimed that the garniture had been entrusted to Bruslart's care in 1812 "by a Russian nobleman to be given to some member of the French nobility on his or her personal application". This is perhaps confirmed by a number of letters (now in the Royal Armouries archives) dated 1814, which suggest that the arms and accoutrements were deposited with Vardon by Bruslart were the property of the Vicomtesse de Richemont.