An intriguing item in Bonhams next sale of Antique Arms and Armour in Knightsbridge on November 25th is a small model of a monstrous cannon used to shoot a Frenchman at his compatriots who were besieging the town of Algier. It is estimated to sell for £2000 to £3000.
The original cannon is a seven metre long weapon made in Venice in 1542 to the order of Hassan Pasha lbn Kheireddin for the completion of the fortifications of Algier. Originally known as ‘Baba Marzug’ (lucky father), it was used in 1683 to fire the limbs of the French consul, Jean Le Vacher, towards the fleet of Admiral Duquesne, thereby earning it the new name ‘La Consulaire’.
This infamous cannon was finally captured and brought back to France some centuries later when, in 1827, a diplomatic incident, the so-called Fan Affair, acted as a pretext to initiate a blockade against the port of Algiers.
After three years of stand-off and a more severe incident in which a French ship carrying an ambassador to the Dey with a proposal for negotiations was bombarded, the French determined that more forceful action was required.
The French invasion of Algiers began on July 5th 1830 with a naval bombardment by a fleet under Admiral Duperré, and a landing by troops under Louis Auguste Victor de Ghaisne, comte de Bourmont. The French quickly defeated the troops of Hussein Dey, the Ottoman ruler and the cannon was captured. It was taken to France as a trophy and is now part of a monument displayed at the arsenal in Brest Another model of La Consulaire is in the National Naval Museum, Paris.
David Williams, Director of Bonhams Antique Arms and Armour Department, comments: “This small bronze model of ‘La Consulaire’ commemorates a military action that would be fascinating to anyone interested in the history of Algeir.”