Tula garniture from Royal Armouries collection
Purchased at auction from Sotheby's, 21 April 1950, lot 5
Locks of identical form to that of the sporting gun, incorporating both the sliding safety and the double pan-cover and decorated to match.The inscription TULA 1752 is engraved on the edge of the lock plate. The stock is inlaid in silver wire with scroll work to match that of the sporting gun and, on the underside ahead of the trigger, with a silver plaque cut out and engraved as the bust of a classical warrior. The steel furniture is decorated to match the lock, the large butt-plate bears trophies of arms and a helmeted classical warrior. The pistol bears the same engraved and pierced escutcheon as that of the sporting gun, depicting the Russian Imperial Eagle with, in the centre, a cartouche decorated with the figure of a horseman. The barrel is similarly decorated to match, but is not iinscribed with the place or date of manufacture as the barrel of the sporting gun.
Barrel Length11.6 inches Barrel Length 295 mm Overall Length 18.75 inches Overall Length 476 mm Overall Weight1.19 kg
Inscriptions and Marks
TULA 1752edge of lockplate
This pistol, one of a pair (XII.1505), along with a sporting gun (XII.1504), a pair of stirrups (VI.356-7) and a powder flask (XIII.150), 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.