Nicolaus-Noël Boutet is one of the most significant gunsmith artists in the world. He was the “directeur-artiste” of the Manufacture d’Armes de Versailles, set up in 1792 and would remain in charge of the factory until is closed in 1818. Originally set up to make a variety of small arms, under Napoleon the factory produced exclusively embellished weapons. Napoleon like to use such things as awards to recognize acts of bravery in his army, and they were also used as presentation pieces for various diplomatic reasons as well as being made for commercial sale.
This particular pair of pocket pistols were made around 1803 as flintlocks, and converted to percussion at some later date (perhaps by Boutet, or perhaps not). They feature a selection of imagery form the classical world, in particular four large sphinxes. There was a major revival of interest in Egyptian classical history around this time, stemming from Napoleon’s campaign there in 1798. These classical motifs became a popular style during his years in power, as magnificently illustrated on these two pistols. Both the woodwork and the metal engraving are exquisitely high quality.