Pair of dueling pistols with case
Napoli, 19th century
Material: Wood and iron
Size: 47 x 31 cm
Review by Gherardo Turchi
Pair of ancient and very rare muzzle-loading pistols with cap-lock mechanism in an accessorized wooden case made by the gunsmith Salvatore Mazza, active in Naples during the mid-Nineteenth century.
Documented from 1820 to 1870, Salvatore Mazza was presumably born at the end of the Eighteenth century as he can be found on historical documents of that time. In 1820, after having been the director of the Royal Weapons Factory of Torre Annunziata, he set up his own workshop in 50, Largo del Castello, Naples. With this information it is clear that, in 1820, Mazza should have been at least 30 years old. For he had been the director of the Royal Armory. In 1828, the Master had to move his factory to a larger laboratory (still in Largo Castello), as the flourishing production of firearms saw almost 60 people employed by Mazza. In the same year, Salvatore Mazza was awarded the silver medal by the Royal Institute of Encouragement for Natural and Economic Sciences for the improvement of his manufacture of weapons and for the fabrication of the “hand cannon”, a weapon particularly appreciated by King Ferdinand I. In 1842, the career of Mazza saw a maximum appreciation by being awarded the gold medal for the fabrication of a revolver with eight shots, provided with a rapid-fire mechanism as well, judging by old documents found. Nowadays, Salvatore Mazza’s works are housed in the greatest museums all over the world, including – obviously – the Royal Armory of Naples.
These weapons in question belong to Salvatore Mazza’s personal catalog. The pistols are fitted with octagonal section barrels richly engraved with decorative twigs and leaves, among which is engraved the signature MAZZA NAPOLI. The same signature is found on the batteries as well, masterfully engraved with phytomorphic motifs to create a continuum with the decoration of the barrels. Even the counter-plate, which was designed to be small in order to enhance the value of the wood of the shells, is engraved with phytomorphic motifs. The wooden case tends to have a particular importance for this wonderful duel set. It is made entirely of elm-root, which gives it a tortoiseshell pattern to the case. Elm-root with such marked veins was very difficult to find during the Nineteenth century, and this is why this decorative motif was used by Mazza mainly on weapons for the nobility or the upper-middle class. The case in which the weapons are contained is proof of this. This case is elm-root veneered with gilded brass finishes, and it has a coat of arms on the lid, ready to be sell and engraved with a family coat of arms, a practice very popular at the time on this type of objects. Opening the box one sees the gold writing “MAZZA IN NAPOLI” printed on the green velvet that embellishes the interior, framing not only the weapons, but also all the two pistols. The case is in fact equipped with a powder flask, screwdriver, hammer, cone doser, strainer, bullet moulds, ramrods, oiler and all the useful accessories for the pistols’ perfect use, cleaning and maintenance.
The duel case reached us in the studio in perfect state of preservation, a reason that determines its value over the centuries, and represents an important addition to the personal catalog of the great gunsmith Salvatore Mazza.