Fine Antique Arms & Armour

Highland Scottish Powder Horn Dated 1683 Ref: 10.26



Price: £2,750


Item Description:


A well formed and beautifully engraved late 17th century Highland Scottish powder horn dated 1683.


The horn is fashioned from the pointed end of a cow horn which has been heat-flattened and pressed into shape. The outer side is profusely decorated with panels of typical Celtic / Gaelic interlace, scrollwork and fans within a lined border. The inner side is decorated with four bands of cusped and cross-hatched ornamentation with the spaces between left vacant.


The wooden base plug is original and was once secured front and back by small pegs tapped through the horn base. The base plug is fixed - powder was poured into and out of the horn nozzle which was originally strengthened with a pewter mount. Adjacent to this on the top concave side of the horn a raised ribbed shoulder has been formed through which a suspension loop has been bored. The second suspension loop was originally fixed towards the top of the base plug. One frontal panel near the nozzle is applied with the date 1683.


For further examples of Highland powder horns see "The Swords and the Sorrows", National Trust for Scotland, 1996, pages 73 to 75, and the accompanying article by Jackie Mann. Horns like this are unlikely to have been made in Lowland Scottish burghs. More likely, they were made by horners settled in the Highlands and around the fringes, near markets, and on established drove roads.The patterns present on the horns are similar to other Celtic / Gaelic motifs which appear on targes, dirks and plaid brooches which are associated with "Highland" craft manufacture and art.


The surviving dated horns indicate that the peak period of the best quality manufacture was from the 1670s to the 1690s. This horn corresponds to "Type A", in Whitelaw's classification system, which are "Horns with their surface divided up by cross bands of interlace and fan ornament, with one or two square or oblong panels".


Overall the horn is in very good condition apart from a small patch to the front which appears to be a small and not very significant localised area of fire damage. The overall length measured from extremity to extremity is 11.5 inches (29 cm). The base is just over 3.25 inches (just under 8.5 cm) across.


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