By Douglas Tate
There was a time when all the royal palaces of Europe featured a cabinet d’arms displaying everything from swords to sidearms to shoguns in gleaming vitrines. Now an exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art, in Reno, that is timed to coincide with the SCI convention illuminates this lost world. “Decorative Arms: Treasures from the Robert M. Lee Collection” includes more than 100 objects, many of which have never been seen in public, dating from the 1500s through the current era and heralding the skills of some of the finest arms makers and engravers in the world.
Robert M. Lee (1927-2016) was an avid collector of arms and automobiles and was a lifelong hunter. He was raised in rural New York, attended Lehigh University and later became a professional hunter in Africa. He helped support the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City, where the Robert M. Lee Gallery of American Arms & Armor is named in his honor. He had homes on Flathead Lake and in Ennis, Montana, and Reno.
Approximately 15 historic firearms will be displayed in special jewel-box wall cases throughout the exhibition, allowing them to serve as references to the modern arms, which will be grouped either by engraver or national origin. In addition to firearms, other objects will include a multi-bladed folding display knife by Joseph Rodgers & Sons, an antique European pistol sword, and both miniature and full-scale suits of armor.
Shotguns and rifles on display include those by Beretta, A. Galazan, Hartmann & Weiss, Holland & Holland, Peter V. Nelson, James Purdey & Sons, Westley Richards and Winchester. Engravers highlighted include such masters as Paul and Alan Brown, Firmo Fracassi, Philippe Grifnée, Rashid el Hadi, Ken Hunt, Frédérique Lépinois, Alain Lovenberg and Gianfranco Pedersoli.