The bronze barrel cast and chased overall: the cascabel decorated with a collar of acanthus; the base ring plain and with an ornamental rear sight; the vent pierced through the base of a scallop shell; the reinforce decorated with the crowned Royal Arms of France flanked by palm fronds and beneath a sun-in-splendour bearing the motto NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR on a tripartite scroll; the dolphins formed as sea-horses.
The chase decorated with the coroneted and mantled Arms of the Grand Maître d’Artillerie, the Shield of Arms encircled by the Collars, with pendant Badges, of the Orders of the Holy Spirit and of St Michael with addorsed field guns below; on the chase above the Arms a five-part scroll formed as an oval and bearing the title of the Grand Maître d’Artillerie: LOUIS AUGUSTE DE BOURBON DUC DE MAINE; above the scroll and below the muzzle a tripartite scroll bearing the motto RATIO ULTIMA REGUM.
The muzzle decorated with a series of plain concentric rings and bearing a pyramidal foresight. The wooden carriage retaining much of its original red paint and mounted overall with iron fittings, the wheels being bound with iron hoops and the trunnions retained by hinging cap squares fitting over pierced studs on the upper sides of the carriage, through which pass broad, flat split pins.
|Location of Origin: Europe|
|Medium/Materials: bronze, wood|
|Dimensions: 61 cm / 24 inches; Overall length: 24 in; Barrel length: 13 1/2 in; Width across axle: 13 in|
|Primary Classification: Antique guns, Antique Swords for Sale|
|Literature: Grancsay, S. V., ‘Models of cannon of the Louis XIV period’, Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York, 1929), vol. XXIV, no. 6, pp. 162–4.Robert, L., Catalogue des collections composant le Musée d’Artillerie (Paris, 1890), vol. V., pp. 98–9.Surirey de Saint Remy, P., Memoires d’Artillerie (Paris, 1745), 3rd edn., vol. I, pp. 73–130 and passim.|
Our fine and detailed model is probably one of a series of guns presented to the Duc du Maine during his time as Grand Maître d’Artillerie (Grand Master of Artillery), an appointment that was one of several military posts that he held during his life. Our model is remarkable not only in the fine detail of the casting and chasing of the barrel but also in the survival of so much of the original finish and fittings on the very well made carriage. We have been fortunate in being able to offer for sale several model cannon in our catalogues since 1995. The present example is among the most significant to be offered thus far, since the decoration of its barrel strongly suggests that it is one of a group of twelve model cannon said to have been given by officers of the city of Paris to the Duc du Maine in 1694 on his appointment to be Grand Maître d’Artillerie, ten of which guns remain in the collections of the Musée de l’Armée in Paris today.
Prior to the introduction of the ‘Vallière’ system for the ordering and manufacture of French artillery in 1732, French cannon were largely unregulated in their design and, to an extent, their barrel decoration, although they generally conformed to a series of regular calibres. Our model is of pre-Vallière design, although elements of its decoration would be retained in the decoration of Vallière guns after 1732: its proportions suggest that it is intended to represent a 12-pounder field piece. The carriage’s red paint, much of which remains, is a remarkable survival of the carriage’s original painted finish and replicates the colour used for the painting of the full-size French artillery carriages of the period.
Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine (1670–1736) was an illegitimate son of King Louis XIV of France (1638–1715) and his mistress, Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan (1641–1707). Legitimised by his father in 1673, he came to live at Court in 1674 and was created Colonel-Général des Régiments des Suisses et Grisons in the same year. The subject of his first military appointment was, effectively, a brigade formed of the Swiss regiments that served the King of France at the time, some of which units were charged with the personal protection of the king and some of which were units of the French army: the duke was to hold that appointment until 1710 when he relinquished it to his eldest surviving son, Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Prince de Dombes (1700–55), on whose death it passed to his younger brother, Louis Charles de Bourbon, Comte d’Eu (1701–75). In 1681, the Duc du Maine became Prince de Dombes and Comte d’Eu and in 1682 he was appointed governor of the province of Languedoc, being created Duc d’Aumale in 1686, the same year in which he was admitted to the Order of the Holy Spirit, by that time France’s senior Order of Chivalry. In 1688 he was appointed General of the Galleys and promoted Lieutenant-General and in 1694 relinquished his generalship of the galleys in order to become Grand Master of the Artillery.
In parallel with the system adopted by that time in Britain and other kingdoms for the marking of cannon barrels, it was the contemporary custom in France for the barrels to bear the Arms of the Grand Master of the Artillery and thus all cannon cast for the French artillery after 1694 and before 1712 – when he relinquished the post – bore the Arms of Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine. As an illegitimate son of King Louis XIV, the Duc du Maine bore for his Arms the Royal Arms of France, three gold lilies on a blue ground, differenced by a red bar signifying his illegitimacy and this heraldry, albeit without the colours, can clearly be seen on the chase of our model’s barrel above the addorsed field guns that proclaim the duke’s official role as Grand Master of the Artillery. The same Arms will be found on French cannon of the Vallière system cast between 1736 and 1755, during which period the Duc du Maine’s youngest surviving son, Louis Charles, was Grand Maître d’Artillerie, although it is made clear on such later guns, through the use of the Grand Master’s title, that the Arms are his and not those of his father.
Our confidence in ascribing our beautiful model gun to the group presented to the Duc de Maine in 1694 rests upon the description given by Robert in his Catalogue des collections composant le Musée d’Artillerie of the barrels of the remaining ten of this original group of twelve – all of which are now in the collections of the Musée de l’Armée in Paris. In volume five of his catalogue, published in 1890, he lists the ten models as items 55 to 64 in the section on Petits Modèles Restitués, pages 98–9, and describes the barrel decoration thus, although qualifying his description in the case of certain of the smaller calibres of models, for which the barrels were clearly too small to allow a lot of detailed decoration:
Le décor du premier renfort est complet pour tous les canons: 1, le soleil à la devise Nec pluribus impar; 2, l’écu de France entouré de palmes, sous couronne royale. Les fleurs-de-lis manquent sur certain écus. Le décor de la volée est complet pour les trois première pièces [the 24-, 16- and 12-pounder guns]: 1, un ruban avec la devise Ratio ultima regum; 2, sur un autre ruban: Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, duc du Maine; 3, l’écu de France entouré des deux colliers sous couronne ducale. Pour les autres pièces, le décor de la volée manque.
(The decoration of the first reinforce is complete for all the barrels: 1, the sun with the motto Nec pluribus impar; 2, the Arms of France encircled by palm branches, under a royal crown. The fleursde-lys are missing on some Arms. The decoration of the chase is complete for the three larger pieces [the 24-, 16- and 12- pounder guns]: 1, a ribbon with the motto Ratio ultima regum; 2, on another ribbon [the title] Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, duc du Maine; 3, the Arms of France surrounded by two collars under a ducal crown. For the other pieces [the 8- and 6-pounder guns], the decoration on the chase is missing.)
A comparison of the above description with the decoration on the barrel of our model will reveal how very close Robert’s description is to it. For many years, based upon an article by the late Stephen Grancsay in the Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929, it was thought that the two missing models from the groupof twelve of 1694 were in the collections of that museum but that rested upon a misreading by Grancsay of Robert’s catalogue and thus an incorrect comparison between models in the Metropolitan Museum’s collections and Robert’s catalogue entry. It thus seems far more likely that our fine model is one of the missing two from group of twelve given to the Duc du Maine in 1694. By the same token, it also seems likely that the carriage on our model is the original carriage from 1694, unlike the ten carriages of the guns remaining in Paris today, which were either replaced or restored and repainted, in blue with gold fleurs-de-lys, some thirty years – in the opinion of Robert – after the date that the barrels were cast. According to Robert, this group of guns, or at least the ten still in Paris, were left at the Château de Clagny by the Duc du Maine following their presentation in 1694; Clagny was one of the houses of the duke and from there the remaining ten guns appear to have gone to Chantilly about 1794 before being transferred to the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in the mid-nineteenth century and moving from there to the Artillery Museum, where Robert catalogued them in the 1880s. Given the original paintwork of the carriage of our model, it seems apparent that our model must have become separated from the remainder of the group of twelve very early in the eighteenth century. However, its intrinsic and untouched condition mplies very strongly that our model has been extremely well cared for in the three hundred years since it was made for and presented to Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine and Grand Maître de l’Artillerie Française.
|Provenance: Presented to the Duc du Maine during his time as Grand Maitre d'Artillerie by officers of the city of Paris. Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine (1670-1736) was an illegitimate son of King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715).|
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121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
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