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Cartridge box

Cartridge box

  • Place of origin:

    Saxony (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood, steel mounts, inlaid with staghorn (antler)

  • Museum number:

    2221-1855

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA11

This cartridge box has 4 slots inside for carrying cartridges for firearms. The steel box has wooden sides that are inlaid with antler in a very delicate and intricate pattern. The cartridge box would have been worn from a belt called a bandolier.

Firearms were not just expensive to buy. Maintaining them also came at a price and a range of accessories was required to operate and maintain them, including spanners for the mechanism, measured charges, cartridge boxes, powder flasks and priming flasks. These too were often painstakingly decorated to match the gun. Some were fitted with suspension loops for attaching to a bandolier, a type of sling worn over the shoulder or around the waist, similar to a sword belt. They have distinctive fronts and backs, the former often highly decorated, the latter plain to rest against the body. Powder flasks and cartridge boxes at their finest are exquisite items of jewellery, designed as much to enhance personal appearance as to feed destruction.

Arms and armour are rarely associated with art. However, they were influenced by the same design sources as other art forms including architecture, sculpture, goldsmiths' work, stained glass and ceramics. These sources had to be adapted to awkwardly shaped devices required to perform complicated technical functions. Armour and weapons were collected as works of art as much as military tools.

Physical description

Wood, steel mounts, inlaid with staghorn

Place of Origin

Saxony (made)

Date

ca. 1600 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Wood, steel mounts, inlaid with staghorn (antler)

Dimensions

Height: 13.3 cm, Width: 8 cm, Depth: 7 cm

Object history note

This cartridge box has 4 slots inside for carrying cartridges for firearms. The steel box has wooden sides that are inlaid with antler in a very delicate and intricate pattern. The cartridge box would have been worn from a belt called a bandolier.

Firearms were not just expensive to buy. Maintaining them also came at a price and a range of accessories was required to operate and maintain them, including spanners for the mechanism, measured charges, powder flasks and priming flasks. These too were often painstakingly decorated to match the gun. Some were fitted with suspension loops for attaching to a bandolier, a type of sling worn over the shoulder or around the waist, similar to a sword belt. They have distinctive fronts and backs, the former often highly decorated, the latter plain to rest against the body. Powder flasks and cartridge boxes at their finest are exquisite items of jewellery, designed as much to enhance personal appearance as to feed destruction.

Historical context note

Firearms became more and more sophisticated from the 16th-century and required a number of accessories to load and operate them. Cartridges were cyclidrical pouches filled with shot. Sometimes they were slung individually from the bandolier but this box allows for four to be carried in the same container.

Like the pistols and guns that accompanied them, decorated cartridge boxes were costly items. Inlaid firearms and accessories reflected the owners' status. Daggers, firearms, gunpowder flasks and stirrups worn with the most expensive clothing projected an image of the fashionable warrior. The most finely crafted items were worn as working jewellery.

Inlaid wood was expensive. The epitome of luxury was to own wooden furniture inlaid with antler or bone. In 1567 a student at the Middle Temple, John Petre, paid 30s for "a desk of walnutt tree overwrought with white wood, by the Quenes joiner". An inventory of Ingatestone Hall, north-east of London, in 1600 not only places the walnut bed with inlaid head, fluted posts and gilt knobs, in one of the grandest rooms, the Corner Chamber, but also describes it as hung with crimson, white and gold cloth with silk fringes. Under aristocratic patronage this technique produced items of breathtaking beauty. The fashion for bone and horn inlays took hold above all in German principalities but in England, France and the Netherlands, where ivory was used as well, this delicate work was also in vogue. Its aesthetic can be compared with decorative half-timbering in buildings of the period. Some of the most beautiful items decorated this way were also the most deadly: firearms, crossbows, powder flasks and cartridge boxes.

Descriptive line

Wooden cartridge box decorated with inlaid antler, Germany (Saxony), ca. 1600

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

Patterson, Angus, Fashion and Armour in Renaissance Europe: Proud Lookes and Brave Attire, V&A Publishing, London, 2009, ISBN 9781851775811, p. 75-77

Materials

Wood; Steel

Techniques

Inlay (process); Forging

Subjects depicted

Scroll-work

Categories

Arms & Armour; Firearms; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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