Peter Finer

A Historic German (Saxon) Wheel-lock Carbine, Dresden, dated 1589

Item Ref: 1909 Price on application

1909 6
1909 7
1909 13
1909 14

Germany, Dresden. Steel, gold, wood and staghorn.


The Saxon Electoral Armouries, Dresden, now the Rüstkammer of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Included in one of the numerous official dispersal sales from the armouries which took place between 1919 and the 1970’s. Of the original complement of one-hundred, variously dated 1589 or 1590, only six carbines of this type remain in Dresden (Inv. Nr. G 1949, G 1953, G 1959, G 1960, G 1962 and G 1967); these six are included in the current exhibition of arms and armour of the Saxon Electoral Guard, Churfürstliche Guardie, Schloss Hartenfels, May 2012 - October 2013, catalogue no. 26, p.98. In common with the majority of arms of this provenance the six carbines are preserved in an untouched condition very similar to that of the present example.

A further example, also dated 1589, also dispersed from Dresden and near-identical to the present example is now preserved in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (see reference below).  The butt of the carbine in New York is incised with the old armoury inventory numbers 31 and 32.   

This carbine comes from the former Electoral Armouries in Dresden, from a series of one – hundred  carried by the Trabantenleibgarde  of Christian I, Prince Elector of Saxony (R.1586-91).

The permanent establishment of the personal guard of the Electors of Saxony was formed by Kurfüst August (r. 1553-86) upon his accession. The guard comprised a foot company of musketeers and halberdiers, and a mounted company, each of approximately one-hundred men, the ranks of the latter being primarily formed from young members of the Saxon, Meissnian and Thuringian Knighthood, together with members of higher Saxon and foreign nobility.

In 1590 a Princely Horseguard (Edlen Pursch) was formed by the Elector Christian I, almost certainly to bolster his security during the tumultuous period of his power struggle with the Lutheran Saxon nobility. The guard was again formed of young noblemen and commanded by Hans von Osterhausen, vice-Equerry and Page to the Elector. By the terms of service specified in a surviving manuscript by Osterhausen the young horsemen were required to supply a single horse and their personal armour, the weaponry would by supplied by the armoury of the Electoral court and would include a pair of pistols and a long carbine, together with cartridge-box and powder-flask.   

In untouched condition and retaining almost all of its original finish throughout, with blued barrel formed in two stages decorated with engraved and gilt acanthus bands at the breech, at the median and at the muzzle, cut with the date 1589 and fitted with gilt-iron back-sight and fore-sight, blued lock fitted with safety-catch, sliding pan-cover with button release and domed gilt-brass wheel-cover, the latter engraved with both the arms of the Duchy of Saxony and those of the Archmarshalship of The Holy Roman Empire. With fruitwood full stock stained in imitation of ebony and incised behind the lock with the old armoury number 5, decorated over its full length with a contrasting series of engraved white staghorn plaques arranged within horn segmental lines, including shaped small panels of strap-work scrolls, some involving lion masks, differing grotesques and monsters, an opposing pair of human masks in exotic headdress inlaid about the barrel tang, a helmeted warrior bust at the base of the fore-end, and the butt fitted with sliding patchbox-cover veneered in horn and decorated with a marine monster. With set trigger, iron trigger-guard, horn ramrod-pipe engraved with a bird-of-prey, and retaining its original wooden ramrod with horn tip engraved en suite with the fore-end cap.

Size: Length 136.5 cm / 53.7 in