An Officer’s Long Wheellock Holster Pistol with Damascened Barrel and Lock, c. 1615-25

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Item ref: 3963

  • Austria, probably Ferlach
  • Steel, silver, gold, fruitwood and horn
  • 60 cm (length)


Henry Griffith Keasbey, American Art Association, New York, The Henry G. Keasbey Collection of European Arms and Armor, December 5 and 6, 1924, lot 137

A similarly long and slender military holster pistol is shown held by Duke Christian von Braunschweig-Lüneburg in his portrait painted by Paulus Moreelse, in 1619 (Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, Nr. 649). The lock and the stock are each undecorated, but are otherwise of the same type as those of the present pistol.

By the opening decade of the Thirty Years War (1618-48, and in which Duke Christian died of his wounds in 1626) this form of pistol stock appears to have been as popular in the German and Austrian centres of firearms production as it was among the north Italian gunmakers centred in the city of Brescia, from where the style was derived over much the same period.

An absence of the city stamps and control marks associated with the German centres of firearms production points to the strong likelihood of Austrian manufacturing. This feature is common to this pistol and to those directly comparable pistols in Graz, for which the Carinthian city of Ferlach is the ascribed source, it being central to Austrian military firearms production throughout the 17th century. This elegant but barely decorated production contrasts with the parallel tradition of luxury firearms being produced in Vienna and Salzburg, which in the instance of the present pistol is almost certainly the origin of its carved and damascened decoration, coming within its later working life, circa 1640.