Lot Number 73, in Amoskeag Auction Company’s Auction #76 – March 27, 2010 sale, is a really spectacular Pair of Duelling Pistols with Original Accessories by Faure LePage, whose shop at 8 Rue Richelieu operated between 1865 and 1913.
Faure LePage was clearly a very worthy representative of a family of gunmakers descended from Perin LePage, assistant to Nicolas Boutet at the manufacture Imperiale de Versailles, 1793 until 1813, then Arquebusier de l’Empereur to Napoleon I. Perin LePage’s manufactory at Versailles was sacked by Blucher in July, 1815. LePage subsequently built fine firearms in Paris originally with Nicolas Bernard as his barrel maker. Bernard left to establish his own firm in 1821.
LePage Duelling pistols were renowned for their accuracy. Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin brings Лепажа3 стволы роковые [VI:25: LePage’s fatal barrels] to his duel with Lensky, and John Leonard, in the New York Times, notes:
Lensky, a reader of Goethe rather than Rousseau and therefore a much nicer person than Eugene, falls victim in the verse epic to ”fell barrels” hand tooled in Paris by Lepage. So, too, did Pushkin insist on Lepage pistols for his appointment with d’Anthes, pawning some table silver to pay for them. And as if to salt this open sore, the all-knowing and all-telling Binyon informs us that the pistol d’Anthes used to kill Pushkin was borrowed from the French ambassador’s son, who would use it four years later to kill Mikhail Lermontov.
The LePage duellers being offered by Amoskeag this month are demonstrated to have been made some decades later by their splendid Art Nouveau ornamentation, probably during the 1890s.
These beautiful weapons come down to us carrying all the romantic associations of the Mauve Decade and the gas-lit Paris of Trilby, Absinthe, and Toulouse-Lautrec, when Honor was still a vital part of human existence, and members of the upper classes of society were expected to be prepared to defend theirs. Generals fought Prime Ministers (Boulanger v. Floquet) and painters (Manet v. Duranty) and novelists (Proust v. Lorrain) sought satisfaction from their critics. The owner of this set of pistols knew he would have one final glimpse of luxury and beauty, if worst came to worst.
Ilya Repin, Дуэль Евгения Онегина и Владимира Ленского [Duel Between Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky], 1899, Pushkin Museum, St. Petersburg.