Place of Origin: Rajasthan, North India
Date: 19th Century
A curious blued and decorated Indian gun, from Rajasthan, circa 19th century. It has an octagonal shaft, in four sections which screw together, the last containing a flintlock pistol and the first fitted with a threaded replacement bulbous pommel. The first section has accurately drilled holes in the middle of each face (possibly for venting), the sides all precisely inlaid with gold in what appears to be a measuring system in Sanskrit. The pistol end is decorated with gold koftgari in a classical North Indian repeating floral pattern, with the jaws and the outside of the striking pan heavily gilded. A long leaver trigger, inscribed, puzzlingly, on the inside face with numbers which also appear to be calibrated in a similar measuring system, the trigger when not in use held in place by a gilded iron sleeve.
Described by both the Royal Armouries (Leeds), and the Royal Collection Trust (Sandringham), as a ‘Walking Stick Gun’, in reference to similar pieces both these institutes possess. They are all of similar construction and undeniably made for the same purpose. Despite the uniformly attributed name, both institutions have differing opinions on the intended use of the instrument, and as can be seen in an article printed in the Royal Armouries Journal, 1.1, 2004 (p.81-88), the Royal Armouries have contradicting views on its application.
On their own website the Royal Armouries have suggested the application of a sundial. Ian Bottomley, writing in the Royal Armouries journal provides, in the authors opinion, the most likely attribution as a gunner’s baton, finding a comparison with similar scales used on European gunner’s instruments for calculation of powder charges and weights of shot. The Royal Collection Trust have stated that the numbers are a calendar (a theory no doubt supported by the finding of an hour-glass in one of the sections).
The example shown here is in exceptional condition, with all of the original gold and bluing still present, quite remarkable considering there is no handle as such. The Leeds example is heavily patinated as you might expect from such an object, the Sandringham example while not available for inspection due to building refurbishment, from the image shown online, appears to be in better condition than the Leeds example, and complete with a spring loaded bayonet, which the Leeds example and the example shown here probably never had.
Importantly, the Sandringham example has provenance of being presented to Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, during his tour of India in 1875-76 by Ram Singh the Maharao of Bundi, which helps us date, and geographically attribute this curios object.