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Powder flask - Powder flask with scenes showing the conversion of St. Hubert
  • Powder flask with scenes showing the conversion of St. Hubert
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Powder flask with scenes showing the conversion of St. Hubert

  • Object:

    Powder flask

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (South, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590 - ca. 1610 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved staghorn with engraved steel mounts

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W.L. Hildburgh F.S.A. in 1944

  • Museum number:

    M.1627-1944

  • Gallery location:

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

This powder flask was used to carry gunpowder. A measured quantity of powder was drawn off by using the spring-loaded pivoting cap on the nozzle. It is decorated with the Conversion of St. Hubert. Firearms became more and more sophisticated during the 16th-century but still required a number of accessories to load and operate them. The main charge, placed in the barrel with the shot, was carried in the powder flask. Smaller priming flasks contained fine-grain powder for priming the pans of wheel-lock firearms. Flasks were attached to a bandolier, a type of sling worn over the shoulder or around the waist, from which hung the various accessories required for a weapon including spanners for the mechanism, measured charges, powder flasks and priming flasks.

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. Like the pistols and guns that accompanied them, decorated flasks were costly items. Inlaid firearms and flasks reflected the owners' status and were kept as much for display as for use. 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.

Physical description

Staghorn carved in relief on the front with scenes showing the conversion of St. Hubert, with engraved steel mounts. The oval mounts are engraved with hunting animals, and the spring cap and lever are in the form of a fox with a bird in its mouth; the back of the horn is unworked.

Place of Origin

Germany (South, made)

Date

ca. 1590 - ca. 1610 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved staghorn with engraved steel mounts

Dimensions

Height: 26 cm With nozzle placed vertically, Width: 13.6 cm Across base, Depth: 3.8 cm

Object history note

This powder flask was used to carry gunpowder. A measured quantity of powder was drawn off by using the spring-loaded pivoting cap on the nozzle. This example is carved with the story of the Conversion of St. Hubert, Bishop of Maastricht and later of Liege, a story which features primarly in northern European art from the 16th century. As a youth, Hubert, according to legend, was obsessed with hunting at the cost of his spiritual duties. Confronted by a white stag wearing a crucifix between its antlers while he was hunting on Good Friday, he immediately converted to Christianity.

Descriptive line

Powder flask, staghorn with engraved steel mounts, with scenes showing the conversion of St. Hubert, South Germany, ca. 1590-1610

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

pp. 392, 393
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, pp. 392, 393, cat. no. 386

Materials

Staghorn

Subjects depicted

Bird; Stag; Animals; Cross; Fox

Categories

Arms & Armour; Metalwork; Fashion; Tools & Equipment; Death; Accessories; Firearms

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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