Rare objects from old family collections from America, the property of a European nobleman as well as books from a London Museum's library highlight the Thomas Del Mar
(in association with Sotheby's) Antique Arms, Armour and Militaria Auction on the 4th December 2013.
Among the European edged weapons is a spectacular dirk for a member of the Egyptian Club, circa 1798 with a gilt brass hilt which rises to form a crocodile head with a gilt knuckle chain in its mouth. The blade is etched and gilt with flowers, foliage and elaborate trophies-of-arms on a blued panel.
The Egyptian club was formed two days after the battle of the Nile when the Captains of the fleet met on board the Orion. A document was then drawn up and signed by all present, inviting Sir Horatio Nelson to accept the gift of a sword and to have his portrait painted for the club. Nelson was later presented with a sword (also with the crocodile hilt but with other distinguishing differences from this current sword). It was then stolen from Greenwich hospital in 1900 and never recovered. This dirk forms part of a very small group of dirks that were almost certainly made for members of the Egyptian Club. Another, formerly in the collection of Nelson's prize agent, Alexander Davison, was sold at Sotheby's in 2001.
A fine group of small swords are also for sale from the Lattimer Family Collection, New Jersey. Among many accolades, which included chairmanship of the Department of Urology at Columbia and Head Professor at the School of Physicians and Surgeons, John Kingsley Lattimer was also a ballistics and assassination expert. In 1972, the family of John F Kennedy chose him to be the first nongovernmental expert to examine evidence taken during the autopsy of the late president. His findings were published on the front-page of the New York Times where he was quoted as saying that the images 'eliminate any doubt completely' about the validity of the Warren Commission's conclusion that Oswald fired all the shots that struck the president.
Lattimer had been fascinated by weapons since his childhood in Michigan and his Family Collections have been described as a virtual military museum. Decorated small swords were an area of particular interest to Lattimer and a distinguished group from his collection is now on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Among the collection of 21 small swords for sale there is a fine and rare ornate English small sword, with a studded steel hilt and a blued blade decorated with small stars, circa 1780. Estimate: £1,000-£1,200.
Another interesting group from an American collector is a fascinating selection of objects including early European swords and daggers, German and Italian armour, halberds and flintlock pistols belonging to Morton and Angela Stern, New York. A fine Saxon left hand dagger, circa 1600, estimate £3,000 - £5,000, and a German rapier of the Saxon Electoral Guard, late 16th century, estimate £7,000 - £9,000 are both from the Saxon Electoral Armoury, Dresden. There is also a 28 bore Saxon wheel-lock holster pistol also from Dresden in the collection, dated 1587 with an estimate of £10,000-£14,000.
Also among the Stern Collection is an exceptionally rare James II flintlock combined grenade launcher and musket by James Peddell, London, circa 1687 which carries an estimate of £19,000-£24,000. John Tinker invented this combined musket and grenade thrower in 1681 and was awarded a pension of five pounds per quarter for it. The Ordnance Records include a minute referring to three gunmakers, Collins Groome, John Hartwell and James Peddell, for stocking and locking brass hand mortar pieces made by the Ordnance brass founder William Wightman at Moorfields.
An etched glaive from the guard of Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria In Tyrol (1529-1595) is included in this collection. Ferdinand II was a highly educated and cultivated man, he extended Schloss Ambras near Innsbruck which housed his famous collection of portraits, Works of Art, curiosities and the first historically organised collection of armour. This has been credited as the first museum North of the Alps. Other glaives from this group are preserved in the Hofjagdund Rustkammer Vienna and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This has an estimate of £1,200 - £1,800.
There is also a French bronze equestrian group, mid-19th century, by Alfred Emile O'Hara Comte de Nieuwekerke (1811-1892) called 'Mort de Monseigneur le Duc de Clarence', depicting the Duke of Clarence (Henry V's brother) and Garin de Fontaine as armoured figures on caparisoned horses. The sculptor was a great armour collector himself and much of his collection is now in the Wallace Collection. A plaster model and another bronze sculpture of this group are preserved in the Royal Armouries, Leeds. This has an estimate of £4,000 - £6,000.
Among the many pieces of armour is a South German close helmet for heavy field use, circa 1540. This has an estimate of £5,000 - £8,000
Elsewhere in the Stern collection are some handsome pairs of pistols; standing out is a late 18th century pair made of brass in Leith, Scotland by T Murdoch with an estimate of £5,000-£7000. Others of interest include a pair of 80 bore silver-mounted four barrelled flintlock tap-action travelling pistols from 1782 by the great London maker Durs Egg (1748 1831), gunmaker to George IV and the Duke of York. The pistols were said to have been used by Lord Hill, better known as General Hill of the Peninsular Campaigns who on is death in 1842 left them to his valet Calderwood. Estimate £6,000-£8,000.
Other pieces in the sale comprise of a rare Venetian parade shield made for the bodyguard of Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, prince Archbishop of Salzburg, late 16th century. When Salzburg was occupied by Bavarian troops in 1809 a number of these shields were transferred to the main Zeughaus at Munich and sold from there after the First World War. Other examples of this distinctive group of shields are to be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York and the Wallace Collection, among others. This carries an estimate of £8,000 - £12,000.
Duplicate books from the Wallace Collection Library sold by order of the trustees include English French and German arms and armour reference books with subjects ranging from Tudor artillery to a catalogue of Indian Arms and Objects of Art, Presented by the Princes and Nobles of India to HRH the Prince of Wales on occasion of his visit to India in 1875 - 1876.
The property of a European Nobleman, by direct descent from the Grand Duke of Baden is also of interest. Many objects from this princely gunroom were made for the Imperial Court, including swords, guns, pistols, armour and cannon. These objects are remarkable in quality; many of the pieces are in near new condition with outstandingly fresh engraving and carving. A garniture of Bohemian flintlock firearms by Leopold Becher, circa 1740 who is considered the most distinguished Carlsbad maker is among these pieces. Becher was 'Hofbuchsenmacher' to Prince and General Johann Georg Christian Lobcowitz in Raudnitz circa 1726-27. This garniture, comprising a pair of guns, a pair of rifles and a pair of pistols are in the Spanish taste, etched and chiselled with cavalry men, hunters and falconers, shells, scrolls and foliage, and carry an estimate of £15,000 - £20,000.
Also in this group is a fine and rare presentation flintlock rifled carbine by Nicolas-Noel Boutet (1761 - 1833), who is perhaps the most famous gunmaker of the 18th and early 19th century, and is credited with pioneering the term de luxe. Boutet inherited the position of gunmaker to Louis XIV from his father in law Pierre de Sainte. This exceptional carbine is decorated with foliage, flowers and silver dragons, and has an estimate of £30,000 - £40,000.
Durs Egg, the highly distinguished London maker features again in this group, with two fine 16 bore silver mounted flintlock sporting guns made for Prince Frederick of Baden (1756 - 1817), with an estimate of £1,500 - £2,000. A silver mounted breech-loading Ferguson rile by this maker is preserved in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.