William bloody Morris’ bloody powderhorn

Imagine if you will, the Museum of London, late on an uncommonly warm summer afternoon. The kids are tired and grumpy, I’m already worn out from three weeks of travelling and we’re belting through the last few cabinets in the Great Fire exhibition so we can fit in dinner before presenting to the Globe’s performance of Coriolanus in the evening. I’m really not paying attention and just snapping photos of anything of leather, bone or horn with plans to review them later…

Which I did accidentally last night while looking for examples of refectory tables with cleats that pass through the apron frame but aren’t attached (for the record, there’s one in The Great Oak Room in the Red Lodge, Bristol). That’s three months short of ten years. We were there in April 2006.

The last three frames of the set are William bloody Morris’ bloody powder-bloody-horn made by Robart bloody Mindum in 16-bloody-01.* Do you know how much time I’ve spent trying to get a clear photo of the powderhorn in the intervening time? The museum placard doesn’t help: “Powder horn made for William Morris, 1601.” If you didn’t know it was by Mindum, you wouldn’t have learned much because the inscription is turned towards the wall of the cabinet. For whatever reason, it didn’t trigger the Mindum alert at the time and didn’t stick in my memory.

William Morris' Powder Horn

Construction is classic powder horn. The base is pressed/glued in because the last thing you want to have if the powder catches alight and goes off is a nailed-in base causing compression. Having third-degree burns still beats losing a leg in the ensuing explosion. The moulded leather collar and carrying thong are probably original. Like on the 1600 Hinson shoehorn, the initials of a previous owner are branded on the base. The owner in 1888 was Rev W F Creeny who donated it to the MoL, so we know it was sometime prior to that.

William Morris' Powder Horn

The design elements are the same as on his shoehorns, with bow-ties, triangles, foliage trefoils, scroll-work and flowers, although the inscription is done inside a frame rather than around the edge. He’s separated the decoration into fields with the use of borders, larger triangles featuring in groups of two, and smaller in groups of three. My instinct is that they are the same size as the ones on the Hinson horn, but I’d have to measure them to be sure. The flowers/marigolds are within a knotwork band, I wonder if he got the spacing right this time, or if they get all mushed up together around the back somewhere to make it all fit.

William Morris' Powder Horn

I think the majority of the stippling is red, the rest of the line work is black. The base has a simple circle and diamond grid design as it wouldn’t usually be seen.

It looks like I have a couple of thousand photos from 2003, 2006 and 2011 to review soon to see if there are any other gems amongst them.


* Australian punctuation used to commemorate Australia/Invasion Day.

For discussion of the complexities of the observance of ‘Straya Day, see this post on the Australian National Maritime Museum’s blog.

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Contemporary Makers: Original 17th-18th Century Leather Powder Horn

Over on Contemporary Makers, they have a nice post on a leather powder horn. There’s two things about it that interest me (ignoring the claim that LR stands for Louis Roy although the justification for a French origin looks at least possible). The photo at the end of the post shows a fleur de lis that looks like it could have been done with one of Hugh’s stamps. This extends the possible period for this stamp by another few hundred years, well into the modern period.

The other thing is that there is another one dated 1649 in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Unfortunately, it isn’t listed on the website so I can’t link to an image. Having dealt with the V&A on the attribution of a particular gaming pouch (a uniquely English form) as being French, I received the reply that the identification that these objects were of French origin was made by a curator in 1856 based solely on use of the fleur de lis for the decoration. Things got somewhat awkward when I pointed out all the other objects in the collection that had the same decoration but were identified as English or Spanish. I’m rambling but my point is not to trust the stated origin without some other validation of the claim.

The stitching is particularly fine, to keep the powder in. It looks like it was made and decorated on a last. I’m not convinced the leather was hardened, as the embossing would have distorted as the leather shrunk.

Here’s the link to the post, it is worth a look.

Contemporary Makers: Original 17th-18th Century Leather Powder Horn.