Gunmaker to the Emperor

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One of the most famous gunmaking firms in Paris, the house of Gastinne-Renette was located adjacent to the Champs-Elysees and thus was well situated for fashionable customers. The firm took its name from Louis Gastinne, a renowned French army veteran who had married the daughter of Henri Renette, descendent of a gunsmith who came to Paris in 1793.

Together, the two quickly became known for crafting masterpieces in steel - creating the finest in arms for the royal courts of France and Spain. With the ascension of Emperor Napoleon III in 1852, the firm of Gastinne-Renette became a regular supplier to the restored imperial household. As Napoleon III had rebuilt Paris and France, establishing broad tree-lined avenues and laying out an extensive national railroad network, these presentation arms were frequent gifts to those who had advanced imperial programs.

Cased pistols such as this elaborate Gastinne-Renette set, were awarded prizes at international shows, including the London Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. Engraved, inlaid and specially cased with loading implements, a brace of pistols like this marked the greatest favor as a gift.

Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, September 2006.