A PAIR OF SILVER-MOUNTED INDIAN FLINTLOCK HOLSTER PISTOLS, IN THE ENGLISH MANNER, BY CLAUDE MARTIN, LUCKNOW ARSENAL, circa 1785
- Country of Origin: India
- Maker: CLAUDE MARTIN
- Price Range: £50000+
- Date: circa 1785
- Size: Length: 42 cm / 16.5 inches
LiteratureBlackmore, H.L., “General Claude Martin, Master Gunmaker” Arms Collecting, vol. 27, no.1, pp.3-12
The damascus barrels with octagonal breeches, deeply chiselled with scrolling decoration against a gilt ground and engraved MAJOR CLAUD MARTIN forward of the touch-hole. The locks decorated en suite engraved on a ribbon LUCKNOW ARSENAL with figured walnut full-stocks profusely inlaid with silver wire decoration. Fitted with full silver mounts with cast and chiselled decoration.
Claud Martin was born in France in Lyons in 1735. He was enlisted in the French army and was sent to India where he served under Bussy and Lally in the Carnatic Wars. Martin was imprisoned by the British after the capture of Pondicherry in 1761, and along with a group of other French prisoners chose to join the British forces.
In 1763 Martin was appointed Ensign in the East India Company and was promoted to Captain in 1766 where he was put in charge of surveying territories acquired by the Company in Oudh. Whilst in Oudh, Martin came into contact with Nawab Asaf as-daula, and a friendship developed that lasted until the Nawab’s death in 1797. In 1776, the East India Company made Martin Superintendant of the Nawab’s arsenal at Lucknow. By 1779 Martin was made a Major and was given permission to reside permanently in Lucknow. This allowed Martin to pursue his commercial interests that resulted in him becoming a very wealthy man. The French renegade Raymond (Hadjee Mustapha) described Martin as “a man desirous of all kinds of knowledge, and although he is at the head of a large fortune, which he owes only to his own industry, he works whole days together at all the arts that concern watch-making and gun-smith work with as much bodily labour as if he had his bread to earn by it…[he] has a Lucknow manufactory where he makes pistols and fusils better both as to lock and barrel, than the best arms that come from Europe…Sir Elijah Impey…carried to Europe one pair of these pistols. “(S.C. Hill, The Life of Claud Martin, Calcutta, 1901, p.118).
As well as working on his various businesses and arms-making Martin also conducted a number of scientific experiments including the invention of ‘the first balloon that ever floated in the air of Asia’ (H. Compton, A Particular Account of the European Military Adventures of Hindustan, 1982, p.373). Martin established his own private mint where he struck coins and medals for himself and the Nawab. He was a keen botanist and an amateur artist and patron of Johan Zoffany and Francesco Renaldi who worked in India during the 1780s and 1790s. A painting by Zoffany dated 1786 shows the artist in company with Martin and his friends, Colonel Antoine Polier and John Wombwell. Martin also had an interest in architecture and was involved in the design of his residences ar Farhad Bakhsh, Nudjeph Ghurr and his splendid Constantia Palace at Lucknow.
In 1791 Martin was involved with the British army’s war with Tipu Sultan and was aide-de- camp to Lord Cornwallis. One of Martin’s 18 pdr. Cannon was used in the final assault on Tipu at the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799. After his death in 1800 his vast estate was distributed and various trusts and educational institutions were established under Martin’s name in Lucknow, Calcutta and Lyon (La Martiniére Schools are still in existence today). Records indicate that Martin’s most prized guns were those by the English makers, that included Charles Grierson, Durs Egg, Henry Nock and H.M. Mortimer. The guns made under Martin’s direction at the Lucknow Arsenal were nearly all based on English models. The motifs seen on his silver-mounted pistols relate closely to pistols made by the London gunmaker Joseph Heylin and it has been suggested that Martin possibly employed English gunmakers in Lucknow.
Martin passed away in 1800 and his epitaph aptly reads ‘Major General Claude Martin/Borne at Lyons January 1735/Arrived in India as a common soldier and died a Major General’
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