Peter Finer

A German Wheel-Lock Sporting Rifle, Suhl, c. 1670-80

Item Ref: 2546 Price on application

2546 11
2546 13
2546 25

Germany, Suhl. Steel, fruitwood and iron.


H. Bauquis Collection, France

Fine sporting firearms with their stocks carved and inlaid in this highly distinctive style enjoyed a widespread popularity among the German nobility within the period circa 1645-85. The foremost example of such a gunroom surviving into modern times was that of the Grand Dukes of Saxe-Weimar in Schloss Ettersburg, Saxony. As with the present rifle, the firearms dispersed from the historic Ettersburg collection in 1927 were almost all preserved in superb condition. A notable number of the Ettersburg wheel-lock guns and rifles made within the period mentioned above also display fine quality engraved designs which are closely related to those decorating the barrel and the lock of the present rifle. The use of grotesques and small monsters within the overall scroll-work scheme is very much the fashion of the period and is found across German decorative and fine arts, having recently disseminated from the master designers of Paris. 

The mark struck on the inside of the lock-plate confirms that the present gun was made in or in the vicinity of the famous gun-making centre of Suhl, the city being under the rule of the Saxon Albertine line since 1660. The version of the Suhl control mark on the lock-plate is relatively rare, unusually involving an iron pick crossed with the sole of a shoe: these devices form a pictogram, the pick representing Erzbergbau (ore mining) and the sole forming a German play on words ultimately representative of Salzgewinnung (salt production). 

The axe-shaped mark struck on the left-hand side of the breech of the barrel is not positively identified but it appears on a large number of firearms attributed to Suhl and its environs, and is in turn therefore tentatively attributed in Støckel to Suhl. 

The brass-lined stamp on the breech is that of the barrel-maker, quite possibly in this instance the maker of the gun as a whole. The design of this stamp is almost certainly a variant of either one of the very closely similar marks used by two gun-makers, namely Cornelius Klett and Christian Reich. Examination reveals that the stamp on this barrel is slightly flawed, either when originally struck or as a result of age-related wear. The result of this flaw is the difficulty in confirming the maker’s initials as CK or CR. The tri-part arrangement of flowers which forms the lower part of the stamp design differs very slightly in the present instance from the two marks reproduced in Støckel , this variation is reasonably attributable to a replacement of the die stamp used by either maker. 

Cornelius Klett was a prolific maker of high quality firearms working in Suhl. He died in 1661 but the business was continued and his stamp used until 1688 by his widow Susanna and his brother Johann Paul (2). Another example of this stamp attributed to Klett is struck on the barrel of a rifle dated 1674, of closely comparable design to this present one, preserved in the Swedish Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren) in Stockholm (inv. no. LRK 3197. 

Christian Reich worked in Osterwick, near Rosendahl in Westphalia, circa 1661-1680. His stamp is included on the barrel of a wheel-lock rifle formerly in the Grand Ducal collection in Schloss Ettersburg. This rifle, now attributed to circa 1680, is now in the German Hunting Museum in Munich.

With rifled octagonal barrel with swamped muzzle, the muzzle face engraved with an encircling rosette, engraved with longitudinal arrangements of leafy scrolls developing from monsters’ heads at the foresight and about the back-sight, the latter additionally involving a grotesque, and with a complementary broad band of scroll-work finely engraved over the breech. The breech with the barrel-maker’s brass-lined shield-shaped mark, C K (or R) over a cluster of three flowers, resembling the mark of Cornelius Klett (Neue Støckel 7699) and alternatively the mark of Christian Reich (Neue Støckel 8123); the left-hand side of the breech boldly struck with an additional mark, an axe (Neue Støckel 6123). The lock struck on the inside at the tail with Suhl control mark (Neue Støckel 1734). The outer surface framed by a fluted border within a chiselled raised narrow linear edge, and finely engraved with a bold pattern of leafy tendril scrolls involving differing large flower-heads, grotesques and a running stag. With internal wheel set within a circular recess, the latter covered by a pierced and chiselled enclosure of addorsed grotesque profile masks. Fitted with chiselled sliding pan-cover engaging a flush-fitting button engraved in the form of grotesque mask rosette, the dog fitted flush with the upper edge of the lock, moving on an internal spring and decorated with a mermaid and a marine monster each pierced and engraved.  With fruitwood full stock decorated with bold scrolling designs of stylised foliage carved in low relief against stippled borders and picked-out with very small iron nails, the carved ornament enclosing the base of the forestock and the barrel tang, and additionally enriching the base of the butt and forming a flourish at the cheekpiece. The forestock carved with both broad and narrow fluted mouldings over the length of both sides. The butt also inlaid with interlaced patterns of iron wire tendril scrolls carrying minute flower-heads and involving larger engraved iron plaques, the latter comprising rosette washers impaled by the sidenails of the lock and a cheekpiece roundel engraved with the bust of an officer in contemporary dress. The butt with patchbox with sliding cover decorated en suite between engraved scroll-work plaques, fitted with plain iron plate, the forestock with matching cap, iron trigger-guard, and original iron-tipped wooden ramrod. Preserved in very fine untouched condition throughout.     

Size: Length 107 cm / 42.1 in