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Oil painting - The Pusey Horn

The Pusey Horn

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Britain (probably, made)

  • Date:

    Late 17th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs L. V. Bouverie Pusey

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This still life painting shows the Pusey Horn, a fifteenth century ceremonial drinking horn now in the V&A collections (M.220-1938, gallery 65, case 8, shelf 3). The horn is said to have been given to William Pewse by King Canuate (d. 1035) after Pewse warned the King of an impending attack. This painting depicts the horn on a late 17th century table. In the top left corner, the decorative band from the body of the horn appears flattened so that the gothic inscription can be read as follows;

“I King Canute gave William Pewse this horn to hold by thy land”

Physical description

Still life against a black background depicting a drinking horn made from ox horn with decorative silver gilt mounts on an octagonal table of 17th century design. In the background, the silver gilt band from the body of the horn is flattened so that the inscription can be read. It reads 'I King Canute gave William Pewse this horn to hold by thy land’.

Place of Origin

Britain (probably, made)


Late 17th century (painted)



Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

Kynge Knould gave Wyllyam Peuse thys horne to holde by thy Lande
'I King Canute gave William Pewse this horn to hold by thy land’
On the flattened silver gilt band painted in the top left corner


Height: 25 in approx., Width: 30 in approx., Height: 865 mm Frame, Width: 880 mm frame, Depth: 60 mm frame

Object history note

Given by Mrs L. V. Bouverie Pusey, 1948

Historical context note

This painting depicts the Pusey Horn (M.220-1938) which takes its name from the manor of Pusey in Berkshire. It is said that William Puwse received the manor in the 11th century from King Canute (died 1035) after he warned the King of an impending attack. Canute and his army were encamped at Cherbury (today the village of Charney Bassett) when a group of opposing Saxons set out to ambush the King. Puwse, an officer in Canute’s army, disguised himself as a shepherd in order to infiltrate the enemy lines and was able to warn Canute of the impending attack by blowing his horn. He was rewarded with all the land within the sound of his horn. Canute reputedly had the horn inscribed and decoratively embellished for Pusey as proof of his gift. In another version of the story, Puwse is a shepherd and is only made an officer after he warns Canute of the impending attack.

Until the early twentieth century, the horn was believed to date from the Saxon period. However it is now thought to have been made sometime between 1400 and 1450 and is one of the few silver-mounted horns to survive from this period. It was acquired by the V&A in 1938 and is displayed in the Silver Gallery (Room 65).

When this painting was acquired by the V&A a decade later in 1948, a label inscribed ‘Painted for the Society of Antiquaries in 1673’ was affixed to the frame. The donor stated that the label had been attached by her husband in 1917 but that the wording was taken from a much older label which had once been on the reverse of the canvas (note in Departmental Object File). This is unlikely as the Society of Antiquaries was not established until 1707. However, the style of the painting and inclusion of a late 17th century table are indications that the painting dates from that period.

A paper concerning the Pusey Horn was delivered to the Society of Antiquaries on the 6 February 1772 and a drawing of the horn was shown to members (letter of 8 September 1948 from the Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries in the V&A Registered File). A full page engraving assumed to be after this drawing was included in an article by Mr Pegge; ‘Of the Horn, as a Charter or Instrument of Conveyance. Some Observations on Mr. Samuel Foxlowe's Horn; as likewise on the Nature and Kinds of these Horns in general’ (Archaeologia, vol.3, p.13-14, 1775). The engraving also appeared in ‘Old Church Lore’ by William Andrews (London, 1891; pp. 65-79) and in ‘The Pictorial History of England’ by W. Chambers and R. Chambers (1858). As in the painting, the silver-gilt band which bears a Gothic inscription is depicted in a flattened form so that the inscription can be read.

‘Kynge Knould gave Wyllyam Peuse thys horne to holde by thy Lande’

The depiction of the horn and the flattened inscription are so similar in this painting and in the engraving as to suggest a connection. However, it is not clear if the painting is the original source for the now lost drawing or vice versa.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, The Pusey Horn, Unknown, English school, late 17th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Summary catalogue of British Paintings , Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted




Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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