Description & Technical information

Seventeenth century Mughal "S" or fish shaped ivory powder horn, commonly referred to as a "Makara Powder Horn", its top end, or mouth, elegantly carved as the head of that mythical animal.
The body surface is richly decorated in low and high relief motifs of naturalistyic virtuosity, combining multiple mythological and animal scenes.
The main body sectionis fitted with a spring mechanism, with a lever fixed to one end, serving as a lid stopper, that when pressed discharges the powder into the gun's barrel. A central metal ring allows for suspension from a belt or sash.
The naturalistic decorative scheme of the piece portrays a Makara, a half-terrestrial, half-aquatic creature, its head clearly separated from the body and tail sections by bands of roped and alternating pearl and lozenge motifs.
The decoration that covers the entirety of the object's surface alludes naturally to its powder container function, an essential hunting accessory. However it clearly exceeds its utilitarian role on account of the exoticism of materials and sophistication of manufacture, accessorizing and completing the richness of the fashionable garb and power symbols of Mughal elites, while undoubtedly belonging to a group of luxury objects inspired by miniatures and textiles produced in the 17th century imperial workshops.
The presence of these objects in European courtly collections is documented in detail, such as is the case of the danish Court Kunstkammer (1690 and 1737 inventories) in the national Museum in Copenhagen. Another two pieces, at the Dresden Museum collections, are also referred in the 1658 inventories of Prince Johann Georg II, Elector of Saxony. Other examples are known at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, at the David Collection in Copenhagen and at the Jorge Neves da Mota Collection at Oporto

Date:  17th century
Period:  1600-1750, 17th century
Origin:  Mughal India
Medium: Ivory
Dimensions: 27 cm (10³/₅ inches)
Provenance: Spanish Private collection
Categories: Arms & armour, Oriental and Asian Art