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Powder horns

India, second half of the 17th– 18th century

1 - Jade, kundan gold, rubies or spinels and turquoises
L. 13.6 cm; W. 5 cm
Musée du Louvre, DAI, acquired 1922, R 436.

2 - Jade, kundan gold, 151 rubies or spinels and 13 emeralds
L. 14.4 cm; W. 4.8 cm
Musée du Louvre, DAI, acquired 1922, R 437

In contrast to the ivory gunpowder flask (MAO 716) which was given the general appearance of a fish, these jade powder horns resemble animal horns, with the narrow part of the horn ending in a low relief carving of an animal resembling an antelope with annulated horns.
The animal is not depicted in the same way on the two horns. In contrast to the animal on the other horn, the antelope on the more elaborately carved one (R 437) has long antlers which curve downwards, slightly raised ears, and a chin covered with a little goatee beard which stands out almost completely in the round. The characteristic inclination of the Mughals to depict nature as realistically as possible – so frequent in their miniature paintings – is thus also to be observed even on utilitarian objects.
The decor on these horns is completed by motifs in gold and precious stones: rubies for the animals’ eyes, gold leaf and rubies for the less ostentatious horn, and a flower design of rubies for the more elaborate one. The emeralds were transported to India from South America (Columbia) by European merchants through the port of Goa. Westerners also took part in the actual production of jeweled objects, for in addition to the Indian specialists working in the royal ateliers many Europeans were employed as jewelers. The Indian sub-continent and Burma had an infinite supply of precious stones; they were among the presents most appreciated at court, and were often offered to a superior in order to obtain a favor. The Royal Treasury was literally bursting with stones. These very refined horns were offered by the sovereign to his most deserving officers, who proudly displayed them during parades and ceremonies.

Powder horns
Powder horns
R. 437
© RMN / Berizzi