The Art of London Firearms

Exhibition Website

Jan 29 2019 - May 17 2020

From around 1780 through 1830, London was one of the most important centers of gunmaking in Europe. During this period, the city's leading gunsmiths developed and continually refined a distinctly English style of firearm, which is immediately recognizable by its elegant proportions, restrained use of ornament, precision workmanship, and ingenious technical features. 

The finest examples rank among the most stately and distinguished in the history of gunmaking. Their novel aesthetic broke from the longstanding decorative traditions of fine Continental European firearms, for which opulent decoration remained a key feature, and instead aligned with a new and intense focus on optimizing handling and performance. Notably, though, some of the most spectacular London firearms from this period successfully blend Continental-inspired ornament with traditional English design. The foremost London gunmakers, including Durs and Joseph Egg, Samuel Brunn, and John and Joseph Manton, earned a devoted following among the British royal family and the English aristocracy, in addition to great fame throughout Europe.

The exhibition explores this fascinating and often overlooked chapter in the art of European gunmaking through a selection of fifteen important London-made firearms, dating from around 1760 through 1830, drawn from The Met collection. Many have rarely, or never, been on public display. It will be the first focus exhibition in the United States in nearly fifty years to examine British firearms, and will celebrate the in-depth recataloguing of this important section of the Museum's collection.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

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