MASTERWORKS OF TIME
Many are the stories told about this shrewd and charismatic character, apparently known to his workmen as the ‘bourru bienfaisant’, the ‘generous grump’, who, after the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815, became himself a tourist attraction. His elegant establishment was concealed up a discreet staircase (perfumed with eau de cologne) so that each visitor felt he was making a new discovery. Before this, Bautte's success came from energetic trade abroad, with China and the Middle East and also in Italy and Paris, where Bautte had first entered a goldsmith’s mark in 1808.
For the Near and Far Eastern markets, fresh novelties were always needed and it appears that these pistols were an instant success. Originally made in pairs, they were directly copied from the most up-to-date pairs of Parisian duelling pistols (see fig. 1). The successful idea of a pistol automaton was later taken up by the Frères Rochat who introduced a singing bird which emerged from the barrel rather than a scent spray. Examples of pairs of both types of imitation pistol were exhibited at Patek Philippe’s loan exhibition of pairs made for the Chinese market, see Arnaud Tellier, The Mirror of Seduction, exhibition catalogue, Patek Philippe Museum, Geneva, 2012, pp. 72-75 and 78-79.
Of the surviving examples of scent spray pistols (around fifteen only are recorded, decorated in the same enamel colours but with a variety of chased sporting animals on the side panels), five are signed by Moulinié, Bautte & Cie.: the present example; the Patek Philippe pair mentioned above; one illustrated in Sturm & Patrizzi, Montres de Fantaisie, Geneva, 1979, no. 26 and cover, with Roman numerals on the dial; and one sold, Sotheby’s Geneva, 6 May 1981, lot 297. This last was probably originally the pair to the present example since the hare and hound on the side panels appear in reverse, the dials both have arabic numerals, the chains and ring match and neither have red enamel on the borders of the flower petals. Another example in the Sandoz collection is signed by the marchand-bijoutier Jean-Baptiste Garrand, see Ian White, The Majesty of the Chinese-Market Watch, AHS, London, 2019, ch. 6, no. 20. Unsigned pistols are to be found in the Wilsdorf Collection, Geneva; Sir David Salomons Collection, Mayer Museum, Jerusalem; the Musée International d’Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds; and the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul (the dial with Turkish numerals) and in private collections.
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