Join Date: Dec 2004
Congratulations on a very interesting gun (which really should be discussed on the European Armoury board since the island of Sardegna is European territory despite the very Oriental appearance of the piece itself). That aside, your piece is notable in that overall, the gun is a very workmanlike example of the form, which was produced on the island from the 18th through early 19th centuries (very rare earlier specimens with wheellocks are known, along with a few miquelet lock pistols). Compared to others with stocks overlaid with ornate pierced iron, yours has a straightforward functionality to its finish that sets it apart from most others seen in collections. Long barrels and relatively small bores are the norm; as I type this I am looking at images of 5 examples in the catalog of the Armeria Reale di Torino which has an outstanding collection of these.
The center of production seems to have been the town of Tempio Pausania on the northern side of the island; many of the finer examples are marked "Barbuti" which apparently was a family renowned for their manufacture.
The profile and cross-section of the butt on these guns appears to be an amalgamation of north Italian styles which developed in Piemonte and Lombardia beginning in the 16th cent. It is not hard to see the stylistic connection between the Sardegnan buttstock and that of the muskets of the Altit region of Morocco. The point of similarity is a somewhat triangular shape without a thumb-notch at the comb, although the Moroccan type has a slight extension at the heel of the butt which lacking on the form from Sardegna. (for comparison, see S. James Gooding, "The Snaphance Muskets of al-Maghreb al-Aqsa" in Arms Collecting Vol 34, No. 3, p 88, fig 2 (top). The geography of the western Mediterranean helps explain this to a large extent, I think. Your observation of the comparatively small bore of your gun is reflected in Mr Gooding's text "...in 1652, some London gunsmiths were allowed to export 'Small Birding peeces called Barbary Guns' to the Barbary Coast. Authorization to export was given on the grounds that the guns were 'soe smale boared as we conceive them to be noe way usefull for ye service of the State" (pp 87,89).
What I find truly interesting about your piece, and what makes it highly unusual ("unique" is a dangerous word in the field of collecting!) is the lock. Mechanically it is typical of those made on the island-- the Spanish miquelet properly termed llave de patilla, being also being the most prevalent variant in Iberia, the southern half of Italy, and most of the Ottoman Empire and Iran. It is atypical (on this gun) because STYLISTICALLY it does not fit the Sardegnan norm. The standard miquelet lock produced on the island is notable in that the two leaves of the V-shaped mainspring are of equal length. On your lock, the upper leaf (which bears on the heel of the cock) is a good deal longer than the fixed lower one -- this characteristic shared by patilla locks made in all the other above-mentioned areas.
Furthermore, the cock on your specimen has a C-shaped neck, whereas the common Sardegnan type has a columnar stem. The C shape, along with undulating lower edge and tapered tail of the lockplate, appear to be a rustic interpretation of what was current taste in Neapolitan gunmaking. The rounded shield below the priming-pan is similar to that same shape seen on later patilla locks made in Ripoll in Cataluņa, Spain as well as in southern Italy.