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Priming powder horn

India, 17th century
Carved elephant ivory, metal attachment
L. 21 cm; Diam. (max.) 7.3 cm
Musée du Louvre, DAI, acquired 1984
MAO 716

Muskets were introduced to India during the sixteenth century by the Europeans. These long-barrel shoulder guns could only fire one shot then had to be reloaded. Horns such as this one were used to store the gunpowder needed to propel the bullets.
In Iran this type of object was invariably shaped like a horn, as were certain examples made in India. However, a number of Indian “horns” – generally made of ivory and decorated with motifs of animals associated with hunting – were given the shape of a fish, and sometimes more precisely that of a makara, the sea monster of Hindu mythology. Although the Louvre horn does not have the S-shape which would have made its identification as a makara much surer, the central swelling indicates that it belongs to the same category. All these horns can be dated to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The body of the receptacle is decorated with animals of various species. One end of the horn is decorated with an intertwined group of animals that is more confused and in sharper relief than the group on the receptacle. The accumulation of different animals on this object, which itself is shaped like an animal, is reminiscent of certain miniatures dating from the same period, in which a big quadruped is composed from a number of different animal motifs.

Priming powder horn
Priming powder horn
MAO 716
© RMN / Berizzi