Beautiful Pair of 18th Century Flintlock Holster Pistols by Petter of Vevay
- Product Code: FHG-2128-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
Few collectible arms are more attractive than the high-end flintlock holster pistols produced in Europe during the late 17th and the first half of the 18th centuries. Old world continental craftsmen produced extremely fine arms during this period that were not only functional weapons but were also works of art, and in some cases high art. The arms are regularly embellished with exquisite engraving on the metal, raised carving in the wood and silver or gold ornamentation, making such guns status symbols as much as weapons during the period.
Offered here are an extremely attractive pair of high grade flintlock holster pistols that date from around the turn of the 18thcentury. The gun were produced by Jonas Petter who worked from about 1687 to 1725 in the town of Vevey, in the Canton of Vaud, which is now part of Switzerland. During the period, there was no modern unified Switzerland, as there was no unified Germany, and the lands that would one day make up these countries were a diversified mix of small duchies, principalities, city states and kingdoms. Often these smaller states would seek protection by placing themselves under the overall rule and protection of a larger state’s king. Jonas Petter was born in 1664 in La Sagne, in the principality of Neuchatel, which is also in modern Switzerland and is now a Canton. The principality of Neuchatel had been strongly affected by the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, but had been under Catholic rule from the French family of d'Orléans-Longueville, but with the death of the Princes of Neuchatel, Marie d'Orléans-Longueville in 1707, the principality chose to avoid another Catholic rule and sought the protection and rule of the Prussian King Frederick I, a Protestant. This small bit of history clearly that the area that makes up modern day Switzerland was a series of small states that were ruled, or at least controlled, externally by larger French or Prussian influences.
Jonas Petter’s father was also named Jonas Petter, and was also a gunsmith in La Sagne, Neuchatel. It is worth noting that spelling during the time was somewhat fluid, and while the guns of Jonas Petter (2) are typically signed “Petter”, that name appears as both “Petter” and “Peter” in references and appears to have become “Peter” by the end of the 18thcentury. Jonas Petter (1) worked as a master gun maker from about 1664-1679 (Støckel) having presented his master’s piece for inspection in 1664; a magnificent double-barreled flintlock pistol. Jonas (1) has two sons, Jonas (2) who was born in 1664 and David who was born in 1687. Both went on to be master gunsmiths in their own right with Jonas (2) working in Vevey, Vaud and David.
The pistols produced by Jonas Petter (2) offered here are a beautiful pair of flintlock holster pistols that likely date circa 1690-1710. The guns are approximately 15” in overall length with 9 ¼” octagon to round barrels that are slightly swamped at the muzzles and have top flats along their entire length. The transition from octagon to round is smooth and graceful, taking place about 4 ½” from the breeches without baluster turned rings or anything that draws attention to the transformation. The tops of the barrels were lightly engraved with simple foliate patterns that were enhanced with gold gilt and the front sights consist of dovetailed brass blades near the muzzle. The pistols are nominally .55 caliber and have smooth bores. The 4 5/8” flat beveled locks are exquisitely decorated with deep relief engraved hunting and game scenes with the flat beveled swan-neck cocks engraved en-suite. The faceted steel pans are removeable and unbridled and the faces of the steels (frizzens) are engraved as well with flowing foliate motifs that match the backgrounds of the locks. Even the top jaws are engraved with matching foliate patterns. The steel springs have flowing scroll finials and the edges and terminus of the springs are lightly decorated as well. Both locks are signed under the steel, in the "V" of their spring, J Petter. The blued triggers had flowing finials to their rears and all of the mounting screws are fire blued as well. The pistols are gracefully stocked and adorned with gilt brass mounts. The mounts are decorated with highly detailed images and themes. Flowing foliate patterns and stippled punch-dot style backgrounds tie all of the mounts together thematically. The solid, 4 7/8” long side plates are richly detailed with a man in the dress of the period with his dog, surrounded by flowing foliate scrolls and with stippled background shading. The buttcaps features a classical hero in full battle dress surmounting a panoply of arm and surrounded by flowing foliate patterns that terminate in a final about half-way up the backstrap. The triggerguards shows another classical soldier, surmounting the top of a Corinthian column. Again, flowing foliate scrolls further decorate the guard with 2 5/8” long flowing finials forward of the guards. Matching ramrod entry pipes with faceted fronts and foliate sprays to their rears are mated with a second faceted thimble that retain tapered wood ramrods with trumpet shaped brass tips. Matching themed brass aprons surround the breech tangs, with flowing foliate themes and stippled backgrounds terminating in shell motif finals about one third of the way down the backstraps. Nose caps with flowing foliate themes complete the mountings. The stocks are simply and elegantly decorated with raised carvings that provide aprons around the tang plates and locks, with carved foliate themes connecting the finials of the tang plate and buttcaps along the backstraps of the pistols. Similar carvings connect the triggerguard finials with the entry pipe finials and incised lines with some simple flowing foliate motifs decorate the forends of the stocks.
Overall the pistols remain in about VERY GOOD to NEAR FINE condition, with one pistol having somewhat better wood and fewer repairs. As with nearly all examples of flintlock pistols that are some three hundred years old, the guns have some condition issues and restorations. Throughout the images the gun referred to as Pistol #1 is the one with a cocked hammer and the gun referred to as Pistol #2 is the one with the hammer in the lowered position, or in one photo, on half-cock. Both pistols retain exceptionally crisp engraving on their locks with fantastic detail and remain fully functional from a mechanical standpoint. Both remain in original flint with Pistol #1 appearing to have had one internal screw replaced that now extends just through the lock plate behind the pan. Both pistols have been cleaned to bright in the European fashion, leaving the engraving on the barrels weak, with only traces of the gold gilt decoration remaining in that engraving. The metal is staring to tone down with a duller steel or pewter color and some lightly scattered surface oxidation and minor age discoloration here and there. The frizzen springs both retain traces of fire blue, and all of these external screws retain at least traces of blue as well. The bores of both pistols remain in VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. They are mostly bright with some scattered surface oxidation and some light pitting here and there. The brass mounts have been similarly polished to bright, retaining only traces of the gilding, which remains strongest inside the triggerguards and in the deep recesses of the decorated mounts. Other than the cleaning of the metal, the steel and brass components of both pistols remain in really FINE condition.
However, both pistols do have some condition issues with their stocks. Both pistols retain fine, well detailed raised carvings with no indication of having been sanded. The stock of Pistol #1 remains in about FINE condition with only some minor repair. The stock is solid and full-length without any major cracks or restoration. There is some minor added wood filler around the lock mortise to repair some chipping from lock removal over the years and there is a tiny amount of filler on the obverse at the nose cap, again to conceal a chip. While the grip appears to have a number of tight, minor grain cracks that travel through the it, under close scrutiny these appear to be the wood grain, almost like tree rings, and do not appear to be damage. If this is cracking, it is the tightest of grain cracks that have not been repaired and remain extremely tight and stable. The stock of Pistol #2 shows substantially more restoration and rates about NEAR VERY GOOD. This gun also shows the minor added wood filler around the lock mortise, though slightly more than with Pistol #1. This gun also has a very professionally executed spliced repair about 1 ½” long at the forend tip, behind the stock cap. This wood is well matched and is barely noticeable. There is an old, very tight grain crack that runs through the wrist of the pistol from the tail of the lock, through the screw hole of the tang plate and terminates at the trigger plate. Again, this appears to have been very professionally repaired, as only the line is visible, and the wood remains tight and solid through this area. The most major repair is at the reverse of the butt, where the wood appears to have shattered and been repaired with the addition of some wood; mostly notably a trapezoidal piece on the reverse that measures about 1 ¼” x 1” x ¾”. There is also some added filler in this area as well. Significant damage to pistols of this quality in this area through the grip is not uncommon as the wood chosen for its attractive grain and figuring to make such high quality pistols was inherently weakened by the very grain that made it attractive.
Overall, this is really a stunning pair of high quality, fairly high condition flintlock holster pistols from the turn of the 18thcentury. The guns are simply gorgeous and really remain in wonderful condition with the exception of the repairs to the reverse of the butt of Pistol #2. Matched pairs of 300-year-old holster pistols of this quality do not appear for sale regularly and when they do, are usually priced in the low five-figure range or higher. This is fabulous pair of pistols that will display wonderfully in your gun for an extremely fair price. From a strictly aesthetic standpoint, the guns represent an amazing decorative value, when compared to an upper mid-grade Colt M1860 Army or M1851 Navy revolver that would be priced in the same range or higher!