Powder flask - part of the Tula Garniture from Royal Armouries collection

Powder flask - part of the Tula Garniture

Powder flask - part of the Tula Garniture from Royal Armouries collection




Purchased at auction from Sotheby's, 21 April 1950, lot 3 The property of Dennis A. Burnett-Hitchcock

Physical Description

Made for Empress Elizabeth of Russia.

Made of steel. The circular body is convex at the front and flat at the back and has a suspension swival on each side. The body is suirrounded by a tall, moulded nozzle, topped by a sprung cap with a large curved lever. The front of the body is chiselled on a gilt ground with rococo shells, foliate scroll-work and trophies of arms.






Overall Length7.2 inches Overall Length183 mm Overall Weight 0.524 kg

Bibliographic References

Royal Armouries, Royal Armouries Museum [souvenir guide], Royal Armouries, Leeds, 2000, p.25, colour ill. (with XII.1504)


This powder flask along with a sporting gun (XII.1504) a pair of pistols (XII.1505-6), and a pair of stirrups (VI.356-7), forms part of a fine hunting garniture, known as the Tula 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.