Place of Origin: Deccan or Mughal dominions & China
Date: 17th -19th century
Overall Height: 1335MM (52.5 INCHES)
A beautiful and intriguing musket of cross-cultural significance. The late 17th or early 18th century barrel is of high quality and is either of Mughal or Deccani manufacture. It is of octagonal section and tapers from a wide breach to a ½-inch bore (approx. 13mm). The barrel is decorated over its entire length with densely packed foliage and blossoming flowers in gold inlay. The breach and fore-end are decorated mostly en suite with the barrel, whilst the muzzle is inlaid entirely with a chevron-pattern of stylised leaves.
The curved stock and forestock are Chinese, 19th century or earlier. It is clear that the maker had a skilled hand, and has thoughtfully mounted the barrel slightly higher than would be expected, presumably to ensure that all of the gold work at the breech is exposed. Two silver barrel bands, so often seen in Chinese antique firearms of the period, thoughtfully hug the contours of the musket, with small, flattened oval belt loops. The bands are also prudently placed where the gold decoration on the barrel changes. The butt has been finely carved over each face to convey a four-clawed dragon, which chases a flaming pearl sitting just behind the barrel-breach. The butt is fitted with a silver cap.
The lack of firing mechanism means that this gun would have had to be fired manually, by holding a match in the primed flash pan. This suggests it was not a gun for practical use, but perhaps was made for ceremonies, or as a votive offering to a temple.
Indo-Chinese weapons are not unheard of. The Palace Museum in Beijing has many examples of Indian edged weapons mounted in China, with Chinese blades or scabbards. See Armaments and Military Provisions – The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum (2008). There is also a Chinese made Tibetan-style musket (with bi-pod) in the Wallace Collection, London, with a 17th century Indian barrel with gold decoration (accession number OA2003).
European art market