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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Luxurious Le Page Shotguns

For those not familiar, Rock Island Auction Company sent out a series of emails containing some of the highlights in our May 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction. These messages covered a number of popular genres and gave a first look at some firearms that are bound to attract the attention of some of the world's foremost collectors and investors. This blog, and the ones to follow, are a reprint of those emails for those who do not receive that type of communication. As an added bonus, these blogs will also include many photos that did not appear in the original emails in order to keep them at a reasonable size. We hope you enjoy these collectible firearms and their multitude of photos!

If you like what you see below, be sure to check out our auction highlights in the Photo Preview4-page Sneak Preview, or our full 16-page mailer. To search our entire auction listing please visit

Collector friends, you are in for a treat today. We have for you two spectacular shotguns from Parisian gunsmith Le Page. These are two of the most ornate, artistic, and technique-laden firearms you will ever see. This may sound like a large expectation to meet, but after we show you the photos of these marvelous arms, we believe they meet those expectations.

The first is the cased, exhibition quality, relief carved Le Page double barrel percussion shotgun with an elaborately carved stock.

Every square inch of this shotgun is covered in extraordinary detail and ornament. To look at pictures of the gun, one finds that looking a second time invariably reveals tiny details that were missed on the first passage. Pierre Le Page was a French gun maker who came to renown by earning the business of the aristocratic crowd in the 18th century. He would eventually become the firearms maker for Maréchal Marice de Saxe as well as the House of Orleans, and would even deliver a gun to King Louis XV. The business would be handed down several times (as it was to him originally) through the Le Page family. The business eventually became the arquebusier et fourbisseur of the House of Orleans, King Louis XVI, Emperor Napoleon I, & King Louis the XVII. They would become famous for their pistols, long arms, and swords and were in direct competition with also distinguished Versailles-based gun maker Nicolas-Nöel Boutet.

The elaborate and pain-stakingly engraved barrel.

This particular shotgun was presented in 1879 by M. Paul Jules Grevy, Fourth President of France, as a gift to Don Manuel Gonzalez, President of Mexico. When this gun was residing in the second floor at Harolds Club in Reno, Nevada, once one of the most prolific collections of Western Americana, it was examined by Shreve and Company, an established jeweler considered to be the oldest commercial establishment in San Francisco, which stated,

"...there is no person living today capable of executing such metal carving. If such a person could be found, it would unquestionably take him 5 to 10 years to complete such a job."

The amount of ebony carving and steel chiseling on the gun is simply boggling and a fitting gift from one head of state to another. Even the forestock has been paid an unequaled amount of attention by depicting in carved steel the portrait of the French President Grevy.

Being an armorer to royalty had its privileges and for Le Page it brought a clientele list that sounds unimaginable - filled with dukes, barons, marshalls, generals, presidents, and even a famous perfume maker. Le Page weapons would win many awards in the mid to late 1800s at the Paris Exhibitions, London exhibitions, and one held in Vienna. With the detail and skill exhibited in the firearms shown, it's easy to see why.

The above shot perhaps best captures nearly all the separate elements of this gun: the carved steel percussion hammers shaped like a dog pouncing on a fox that serves as the percussion cap holder, said fox hiding within the scrollwork, the sideplate depicting a lion winning a battle against a snake, the grape vine pattern that covers the barrels, the deeply carved ebony stocks, and the ornate trigger guard that reveals a pheasant eating the same grapes depicted on the barrel.

A close-up of the dog-shaped carved steel hammer, the percussion cap holder fox, and the breech.

The trigger guard with a another carved animal, this time a pheasant eating grapes

The above picture gives us our first glimpse of the carved ebony of the piece and it does not disappoint. One immediately sees grape vines and grapes that swirl around nesting birds and even cherubs. The buttplate even depicts a running dog on this side and a large cat on the other. Also notice the small three dimensional rabbit holding the end of the trigger guard extension. The image below is further evidence that not a single surface went to waste as even the narrow ends of the buttplate were used for engraved scenes, this one depicting three hounds killing a wild boar.

This gun could easily warrant another dozen photos to capture its detail from every angle. However, in the interest of brevity we shall move on to the next Le Page arm in our May 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction.

While the previous firearm was an exercise in engraving and carving, the next firearms seeks to provide the same experience with inlaid materials. Utilizing both gold and pearl, the artisan who created this beautiful shotgun uses delicate floral pattern inlays as well as deep engraving to build this beautiful long arm.

The Damascus barrels, with a gold inlaid band at the muzzle, become more ornate toward the breech with gold inlaid text on the rib, and each barrel ending in a 5 inch section of wondrously executed, deep relief, flora,l scroll pattern engraving outlined and accented with gold. That floral pattern extends to the lockplates and even up each of the hammers. The trigger guard is ornamented in its own way appears to be one of the most work intensive sections of the whole gun.

The stock inlays involve the same contrast of bold and delicate design that was shown in the engraving. A pronounced, intertwining pearl border fences in a garden of floral gold and pearl vinous inlays. The buttplate received much the same deep relief engraving treatment as other areas of the gun, but the design is more similar to that of the trigger guard than that of sideplates and breech.

These two guns are so extraordinary that they were an easy choice to go on the back cover our upcoming 16-page Premiere Auction Mailer as well as the front cover of Volume II of this catalog and the inside cover of Volume III. Guns with this high level of aesthetics and craftsmanship are just one more reason you have to see the immense selection of high end, investment quality, historic, and one-of-a-kind firearms at our May 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction.  We hope you enjoy these great photos and appreciate you taking the time to view all these great collector firearms. 


  1. All guns are really beautiful and antique. The design made in these guns are rare and make by an expert. I like to buy these guns.

  2. I'd have to say the first Le Page is going to be a love-it-or-hate-it affair for most people. To some it is the epitome of beauty; to other's it's very garish.

    That being said, I am in the former school. It looks very eldritch and gothic; not out of place in some horror movie set in the victorian age or some HP Lovecraft novel. It also looks like something out of Bloodborne.

    The second one is much more muted, but still quite beautiful. The design speaks more to functionality than ornamentation. I like this one too, even though it does look generic considering the other arms made during the period it was made.

    All in all, they're quite beautiful.