Van Cutsem – A St Quentin

Provenance: Ex: Ralph Finch Collection, American Glass Gallery

Here is a French target ball embossed VAN CUTSEM – A ST QUENTIN. Most likely it was made for a Belgian gun merchant.

In the spring of 1994, thousands of these target balls were reportedly uncovered in the basement of an old French estate. While they constitute the most common target ball in the world, the good news is that these are very attractive balls and a great addition to a beginning collection.

We actually have two Van Cutsem target balls in our museum; one is dark cobalt blue (our support example) while the other is a medium cobalt blue which is our primary example. Both are pictured below.

This 2-5/8″ diameter, light-to-medium cobalt blue target ball has a quilted diamond pattern above and below an embossed center band that contains the embossed Van Cutsem – A St Quentin copy. It is a 3-piece mold with a rough sheared mouth and is in perfect condition.

As noted above, A ST QUENTIN is embossed on our target ball. It stands for Saint-Quentin, a commune in the Aisne department in Hauts-de-France in northern France. It is named after Saint Quentin, who is said to have been martyred there in the 3rd century.

The name VAN CUTSEM is also embossed on the target ball. This is probably a reference to G. van Cutsem who was a gun dealer in Belgium. He was also listed as a Calais arms dealer. We have included an image from a high-quality gun with highly figured walnut and hand-cut scroll engraving in steel with his name inscribed. The proof marks all appear to be Belgian and indicates it was proofed at Liège, Belgium before 1929.

Very little is known about van Cutsem. It is most likely that he purchased guns from St. Etienne, France, and had his name put on them. This was and still is a common practice. The lack of a Paris address suggests that he was never more than a provincial dealer. It may have been difficult to compete with Manufrance which was the trade name of Manufacture Francaise d’Armes et Cycles de St. Etienne (French Arms and Cycle Factory of St. Etienne), a French mail-order company which was situated in the manufacturing town of St. Etienne. They were the first French mail-order company initially specializing in shotguns.

Further research reveals patent number 101,787 for Van Cutsem, of St. Quentin, for “Ball capsules for Flobert rifles” dated 5th February 1874 as noted in the Commissioners of Patent’s Journal in Great Britain, Patent Office in 1874. Flobert rifles were used as gallery, parlor, or saloon guns which were a type of firearm designed for recreational indoor target shooting. These guns were developed in 1845 when French inventor Louis-Nicolas Flobert created the first rimfire metallic cartridge by modifying a percussion cap to hold a small lead bullet. Later we see that G. van Cutsem was located in Calais, France at the turn of the century and see another patent for a rifle cartridge, on May 24, 1893.

Another obscure reference is about his son, Louis van Cutsem who was a young Flemish artist from St. Quentin who was one of a trio of friends including Jules Petis and Henri Matisse, the famous French artist. Van Cutsem abandoned painting at some point altogether to train as an accountant, returning to St-Quentin to marry a brewer’s daughter in 1899 and make a career as a sugar-broker. His father was referenced as a Belgian gunsmith.

See another French target ball in our museum. Gevelot – Paris Target Ball

Primary Image: Lot 776: “VAN CUTSEM – A ST QUENTIN” Target Ball, France, 1875 – 1900. Light-to-medium cobalt, quilted diamond pattern above and below center band, 3-piece mold, rough sheared mouth, dia. 2 5/8”, perfect. A large cache of these previously rare balls was uncovered in 1994, in the basement of an old French estate. They have been filtering into the hands of collectors for more than 20 years, and are now the most classic, and recognizable, of the French target balls. – The Ralph Finch Collection of Target Balls, Traps and Shooting Ephemera, An Absentee Auction in Six Parts – 2017-2019, John Pastor and American Glass Gallery

Secondary Image: Engraving on steel rifle. G. Van Cutsem . Arq-R (Arquebusier) BTE (Brevete-Patent & probably rifle cartridge patent?) Calais (France) – Caesar Guerini Elite Dealer

Secondary Image: Lot 579: “VAN CUTSEM – A ST QUENTIN” Target Ball, France, 1875. Cobalt blue, quilted diamond pattern above and below center band, 3-piece mold, rough sheared mouth, dia. 2 5/8”, perfect. A beautiful example, very light in tone through the center, with some striations and deeper cobalt color through the shoulders and base. In 1994, barrels of these balls were found in the basement of an old estate. They are now beginning to “dry-up”. – The Ralph Finch Collection of Target Balls, Traps and Shooting Ephemera, An Absentee Auction in Six Parts – 2017-2019, John Pastor and American Glass Gallery

See More Target Balls

Target Balls Gallery

The Target Balls gallery is still under development. Stay tuned!

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