Tibetan copper and silver horn

45 x 13 x 16 cm


1136 grams


Copper, silver, brass




A North American estate

Robert Hales

Price €4600, -

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A very large Tibetan copper and silver horn. The copper segments are of octagonal cross-section and are joined by silver bands. The copper is engraved, and the silver is worked in repousse. 

The designs include tantric Buddhist symbols from the famous suit of astamangala or "eight auspicious signs". It refers to a suite of eight auspicious symbols relating to Buddhism. For more information, see my glossary article astamangala.

The designs also incorporate floral scrollwork, rolling thunder borders and stylized flowers, petals and clouds. The work is very well done, and there is a lot to see in the different segments.

The horn is suspended by two rings holding a brass chain. The stopper is retained by a delicate silver chain.



It was thought to be a powder horn by its two previous owners, and it does have the general shape of powder horns, albeit being quite a bit larger than those normally encountered.

It is also made of copper and silver in a style associated with Tibetan aristocracy. Powder flasks aren't usually executed in this style, but we see plenty of pots and vessels for tea executed in this manner.

See, for example, a very nice teapot in the style sold by Michael Backman.1

Another similar teapot is in the Royal Collection Trust, Great Britain, accession number RCIN 74481. It was one of a pair sent by the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Thubten Gyatso (1876-1933), to King George V (1865-1936). He received them at Buckingham Palace on 28 June 1913. This set is thought to have been made at the government workshops in Lhasa.

This makes me believe our horn was almost certainly a drinking vessel. It is known that chaang; Tibetan beer was often drank from large horns. This is then a luxury version of such a beer vessel.

In any case, it is a very rare item with a very high level of craftsmanship that is uncommonly seen on powder horns and drinking vessels. It exceeds the quality and complexity of the execution of the teapots that the Dalai Lama sent to the King of England in 1913 and most likely predates these pots.



As depicted. Copper with original tarnishing left largely intact. There is a dent at the bottom end.


1. Also see a copper-silver Mongolian teapot of the dombo type that was brought back fro the Haslund expedition. Of much simpler execution, it, too was only reserved for nobility and use in monasteries. Published in Christel Braae; Among Herders of Inner Mongolia. The Haslund-Christensen Collection at the National Museum of Denmark. Aarhus University Press. 2017. Page 342.

Tibetan copper and silver horn
Tibetan copper and silver horn
Tibetan copper and silver horn
Tibetan copper and silver horn
Tibetan copper and silver horn
Tibetan copper and silver horn
Tibetan copper and silver horn
Tibetan copper and silver horn
Tibetan copper and silver horn
Tibetan copper and silver horn

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