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Powder flask

Powder flask

  • Place of origin:

    Pakistan (possibly, made)
    Mughal empire (made)

  • Date:

    17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ivory, carved

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Highly decorated ivory primers, or priming flasks, were made in India, as elsewhere, to carry the small quantities of fine powder needed to fill the pan of matchlock guns. This example is typical of those made in Mughal India in the 17th century, some of which were in European collections such as that formed by Prince Elector Johann Georg II of Saxony, as early as 1658. Their decoration includes the birds and animals that would have been hunted by the owner of such primers, but sometimes includes mythical beasts and birds. This primer was bought by the Art Museum for £11 in 1896, mistakenly identified as 'Persian' work.

Physical description

Ivory carved in relief with interlocking animal heads, birds and fishes.

Place of Origin

Pakistan (possibly, made)
Mughal empire (made)


17th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Ivory, carved


Length: 13.06 in, Width: 1.75 in

Object history note

Acquired by the Art Museum in 1896 as 'Persian', 17th century. The accession description supplied in the List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum During the Year 1896, p. 62 (London: HMSO, MDCCCC) is: 'Powder-horn of ivory, carved in high relief with figures and heads of animals and birds, the subjects repeating on the reverse side. The object consists of two parts of different workmanship, in the smaller of which, ending in the nozzle, some of the eyes are set with amber; the metal fittings, with which it was probably originally provided, are wanting. Persian; 17th centy. L. 13 1/16 in., W. 1 3/4 in. Bought £11.'
The RF supplies the information that it was bought from Mirza Ysuff [sic] Khan of 32 Coptic Street, Bloomsbury [London]. His other objects offered to the museum between 1893 and 1909 range from Dutch tiles to European arms and armour, a Persian manuscript, metalwork of various types from Europe and the Middle East, and textiles of similarly miscellaneous nature. There is no other provenance information.

Descriptive line

Carved Ivory, relief animal heads, birds and fishes, Mughal, 17th century.








South & South East Asia Collection

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