Powder horn made of a conch shell extended with mother-of-pearl, gilt copper and possibly wood
India, Gujarat; 17th century
Maximum H: 15.2 cm
This powder horn is made of a conch shell whose outer calcareous layer has been sanded down to expose its inner layer of reddish mother-of-pearl. To increase the volume of the horn, the conch shell has been extended upwards with panels of mother-of-pearl framed by gilt copper. The construction is presumably reinforced by an inner wooden structure. At the top is a circular cover with inlaid floral decorations in mother-of-pearl and a small, baluster-shaped spout with a sliding lid.
The horn would have contained a considerable amount of gunpowder, which could be poured down the barrel of a muzzle-loading gun via the spout. In addition to this horn, the gunner would also have carried a smaller powder flask with very finely grained gunpowder to be used as a primer (1/1974
The conch shell is that of the seasnail turbo marmoratus
. The species is found in the Indian Ocean, and its shells have long been collected along the west coast of India for the sake of its mother-of-pearl. From the sixteenth century onwards, Gujarat was particularly famous for its mother-of-pearl items (22/1983
), which were exported to the rest of the Islamic world and to Europe, where Indian mother-of-pearl was an exotic feature in many princely collections.
Inv. no. 36/1980
Spink & Son: Islamic art from India, London 1980, p. 69, cat.no. 90;
Vibeke Woldbye and Bettina von Meyenburg (eds.): Konkylien og mennesket: udstilling i Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen [1983), cat.no. 87, p. 108;
Kjeld von Folsach: Islamic art, The David Collection, Copenhagen 1990, cat.no. 288;
Kjeld von Folsach: Art from the World of Islam in The David Collection, Copenhagen 2001, cat.no. 415;
Kjeld von Folsach, Joachim Meyer and Peter Wandel: Fighting, Hunting, Impressing. Arms and Armour from the Islamic World 1500-1850, The David Collection, Copenhagen 2021, cat.no. 50;