Fine and unusual English guns made for Indian princes formed the most lucrative sub-section of Holt’s latest London sale.
Offered on September 20 were a pair of
massive four-bore wildfowling guns built for the Maharajah of
Bhavnagar by H. Clarke & Sons of the Midland Gun Works,
Leicester, were reunited for the first time in several
The two single-barrelled guns, each of which
weighed in at 14lb 13oz (6.75kg), came to the saleroom from two
different vendors, having had very different histories since they
were last together.
The first was mounted with an enamelled gold
escutcheon on the comb of the stock emblazoned with the maharajah's
arms and was further adorned with a medallion indicating that it
was from the collection of one of England's best-known collectors,
William Keith Neal. He apparently acquired the gun in the 1960s and
despite its weight and provenance regularly used it to shoot geese
in Scotland until he was in his 70s.
The second was discovered by its vendor in
the gunroom at Holland & Holland's Bruton Street showrooms in
London in the 1980s where the quality of its manufacture shone
through despite the fact that it was minus its stock and without
any finish on the metalwork.
These deficiencies were put right by
Hollands (at the cost of a king's ransom, reported the vendor) and
the gun spent the next 20 years in South Australia. When it finally
appeared in the saleroom alongside its long-lost companion it was
therefore refinished and had a non-original stock without the
It had long been the dream of the vendor of
this second gun to reunite the pair and the stage was finally set
last month. The main battle was for the first gun with its powerful
combined provenance and original stock. Once this had been bought
for £21,000, the same buyer was able to take the second for
There will presumably now be a period of
intensive training for both shooter and loader if these 36in (91cm)
barrelled heavyweights are once again to be used as a true
The princely selection also included a Rigby
7x65R sidelock ejector double rifle built in 1907 for the Maharana
of Udaipur which sold for £15,000 and an Alexander Henry .360 black
powder double rifle completed for the Maharaj of Dholpur in 1902
which took £4200.
However, most princely of all proved to be
an exceptionally well-preserved 10-bore sidelock ejector made by
Charles Lancaster in 1910 for the Maharajah of Patiala, a notably
lavish and flamboyant ruler in an age when there was no shortage of
free-spending princes from the east patronising the best English
makers of everything from cars to guns.
Retaining much of its original finish and
inscribed MADE SPECIALLY FOR H.H. THE MAHARAJAH SAHIB BHUPINDER
SINGH OF PATIALA, this gun reached £31,000.
The name of William Keith Neal also drew
extra attention to a group of five 18th and 19th century
Continental shoulder guns from his collection which appeared
earlier in Holt's sale. The prettiest of these was the 25-bore
flintlock double-barrelled sporting gun made by Dolne of Liege for
Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig of Prussia, which made £6500.
The buyer's premium was 22.5%.
Fine French Arms
France provided the noble provenances for the
major lots in the arms and armour sale atChristie's South
Kensingtonon September 26.
Top of the tree was a very high quality
sabre that once belonged to Charles Ferdinand d'Artois, duc de
Berry, son of Charles X and heir to the Bourbon throne when he was
stabbed and killed outside the opera in 1820.
Following Napoleon's escape from Elba,
Charles Ferdinand briefly commanded the army in 1815 and the sabre
on offer at Christie's was dated to the period 1815-20.
It was the product of the Manufacture Royal
du Klingenthal and bore the signature of Père Bick, one of the best
makers of the time. Complete with its original scabbard, it was
estimated at £80,000-100,000 and sold for £70,000.
Above: the duc de Berry's sabre -
£70,000 at Christie's South Kensington.
There was also interest in a group of mainly
18th century sporting guns from the family collection of the ducs
de Luynes, which were of interest for their technical complexity as
well as their noble origins. A royal coat-of-arms engraved on the
lock plate indicated that a 20-bore double-barrelled flintlock by
Pierre de Sainte of Versailles had been originally made for a
member of the French royal family.
This gun was also technically interesting in
that it had rotating turnover barrels. It was not in perfect
condition but its overall quality and provenance saw it sell for
Turnover barrels were also a feature of two
German 25-bore flintlock rifled carbines for boar shooting by
Wilhelm Linden Schmitt of Mainz. These differed in detail but were
close enough to be considered a near pair and sold for £4500.
A very different approach to multiple shots
was demonstrated by another short boar-hunting rifle from the de
Luynes family: an 18-bore double barrelled percussion carbine by La
Page of Paris, c.1840. This was of high quality and contrived to
fire four shots from the two barrels by loading each barrel with
two charges, one in front of the other. These were fired by four
hammers operated by a single trigger. Superimposed load rifles of
such quality are rare and this example sold for £8500.
There was a monster lurking in the South
Kensington sale in the form of a two-bore flintlock fowling gun by
Though it was stocked in conventional
fashion, it has to be assumed that with barrels over 4ft (1.22m)
long this weapon was never intended to be fired from the shoulder
and the auctioneers noted that the underside of the butt was
slotted, probably from being mounted in a punt. It sold at
The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%.