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Powder flask

Powder flask

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Relief carved and pierced tortoise shell

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a power flask made in the 17th century in Germany. The flask is made of a pierced tortoiseshell relief carved with a representation of Orpheus and the beasts.

Powder flasks or horns are portable containers of wood, horn, metal, leather or ceramic used to hold the priming powder or gunpowder for firearms. They normally terminated in a metal nozzle which also served as a powder measure, closed by a plug or spring cap, and are often highly decorated.

Gunpowder began to be transported in pouches or more rigid containers at about the same date as the introduction of hand-held firearms in the fifteenth century. Such flask might have a military purpose, or be used for hunting. The very decorative pieces were above all a singn of rank, and at the same time aesthetic objects in their own right, and probably never actually functioned as containers for gunpowder.

Physical description

Power flask, covered with velvet, having on one side an oval medallion of tortoise-shell with Orpheus and the beasts in pierced work.

Place of Origin

Germany (made)


17th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Relief carved and pierced tortoise shell


Height: 13.97 cm, Length: 12.06 cm length at bottom

Object history note

Bought in 1872.

Descriptive line

Powder flask, pierced tortoiseshell relief, covered with velvet, bound with iron, on the one side a medallion with Orpheus and the beasts, Germany, 17th century

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

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1872, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., p. 108


Tortoise shell


Piercing; Relief; Carving

Subjects depicted



Containers; Myths & Legends; Arms & Armour


Sculpture Collection

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