Duelling Pistols at Bonhams: Objects of Beauty and Death


LONDON.- Today a gentleman no longer needs a set of duelling pistols, which means that Bonhams Antique Arms and Armour sale on April 20th is free to offer twelve sets of pistols estimated to sell for between £2,500 to £60,000, as items of historical interest and fine workmanship, not death and destruction. Images of the duel permeate our recent history – gentlemen defending their honour in the early morning light amid woods or fields, with seconds in attendance. Many felt compelled to fight duels, often with fatal results. Only gentlemen were considered to have honour, and duels were reserved for social equals. The goal of the honourable duel was often not so much to kill the opponent as to gain ‘satisfaction’, that is, to restore one’s honour by demonstrating a willingness to risk one’s life for it. From the early 17th century duels were often illegal in Europe, though in most societies where duelling was socially a