Salzburg Ibex Horn Box, Curved and with Silver Parcel-Gilt Mountings

Object Number: #349

Salzburg, mid-eighteenth century

Ibex horn, lid and base carved, silver mounting, parcel gilt

Provenance: Collection B. Böck

Detailed Information

Salzburg Ibex Horn Box, Curved and with Silver Parcel-Gilt Mountings

The present Ibex horn box is made of one piece of Ibex horn with an antler knot. The mountings are made of silver and are in the inside gilded (not visible from the outside). The wall of the can is carved out of the full horn and polished smooth.

The lid as well as the underside shows an ibex looking backwards in the mountains. At the edge of the illustration two ibexes can also be seen. In the clouds is a distinct “L. A.” monogrammed between two rosettes. The designs of the motifs on the lid and on the bottom are very similar and uniform, so that it can be assumed that the manufacturer used the same stamp.

The bottom relief is trimmed and less rubbed off than that of the lid. The comparison of the beaded ribbon at the edge of the image supports the suggestion regarding the use of the same stamp. The box is attributed to the family Amende due to the monogram. In the catalogue Carved Steinbockhorn of Johannes Neuhardt there are very similar works listed, which are attributed to the family Amende and are designated as works made in Salzburg.

The Ibex and Man

The ibex has always been considered as an animal with extraordinary power; how else would it survive in the rugged mountainous regions. These were an impenetrable world for humans, before the time of alpinism. According to the ideas of the time, the animal had to have special abilities to cope with the dangers there. The humans wanted to claim these powers for themselves, and especially for specific causes – e.g. against witchcraft -, so the horn was carried on the bare skin. Among other things it was also used against the plague. In the Universallexikon of Zedler (1744) various effects of the ibex horn are enumerated. Above all spoons, cans or drinking vessels are extremely good against poisons and the like, as it can be read there. For this reason, cups and boxes were made from ibex horn. The boxes thus probably served to preserve medicines and thus increase the healing effects of these drugs. The use as a snuff-box could be possibly secondary.

In the eighteenth century, there was in Salzburg an ibex colony, which actually were protected by the local clergy. However, the belief in the miracles of the horn and unreason led to the animals being tirelessly hunted until the last ibex died. According to the fashion of the exotica, which since the seventeenth century have been transformed into unique art objects for the princely art chambers, the aesthetically not very appealing ibex horn was raised as a treasure in the eighteenth century, for the reason it originated from a legendary animal with wondrous powers. Due to the rapid eradication of the animals, there was an extraordinary large supply of ibex horns in Salzburg, so that a flourishing branch of art, which remained unique in Europe, developed in the local court.

Ibex Horn in Arts and Crafts

Objects from ibex horn are mostly decorated with silver or silver gilt mountings, which always show reliefs of ibex and hunters on the ibex hunt. At the centre of the representations is the motif of the ibex, which is intended to illustrate the origin of the material and the forces supposedly attributed to it.

In contrast to ivory, ibex horn is very difficult to carve since it is hard and brittle. Above all, the reliefs of the lid and bottom plates of the boxes are mostly pressed. In contrast to the objects in high-relief, the pressed reliefs are very concise and extremely flat. The motifs and their execution are very often similar, so that it is assumed that they were processed with prefabricated stamps.

In order to be able to cope with the hard and brittle horn of the ibex, however, the material had to be made “soft”. In the book of Johann Jacob Bräuners, Unschätzbares Artzney-Büchlein zur Zeit der Noth. Bestehend In einer Anzahl sicherer und approbirter Recepten von 1736, there is a recipe for “print horn in forms”: “Juice of various plants and soak the horn in it. Set it seven days under new horse-dung, then cover your hands with oil and and rub the horn well with it and stamp it with whatever you like” (transl.).

The attribution of ibex objects to the Salzburg area, at the end of the eighteenth century, can be further substantiated thanks to various indications. In the Munich Residency there is a beaker made of ibex horn, which clearly shows the Müllner church in Salzburg with the monastery belonging to it and can therefore clearly be attributed to a Salzburg sculptor.

Sources and literature

Johann Jacob Bräuner: Unschätzbares Artzney-Büchlein zur Zeit der Noth. Bestehend In einer Anzahl sicherer und approbirter Recepten, Wider vilerley täglich fürfallende inn- und äusserliche menschliche Leibs-Gebrästen, mit sonderbahrem Nutzen zu gebrauchen : Zu Erspahrung viler weitläuffiger Bücher, Allen angehenden Studiosis Medicinae & Chirurgiae … außgestellet, München 1736.

Johann Heinrich Zedler: Großes vollständiges Universal-Lexikon. Spif – Sth (= 39), Halle Leipzig 1744.

Benedikt Pillwein (Hg): Biographische Schilderungen oder Lexikon Salzburgischer Künstler, Salzburg 1821.

Johannes Neuhardt (Hg): Geschnitztes Steinbockhorn, Salzburg 1990.

*Elfriede Grabner: Der Steinbock im Volksglaube. In: Johannes Neuhardt (Hrg): Geschnitztes Steinbockhorn, Salzburg 1990, S. 44–55.

*Franz Wagner: Die Hornschneider und Dosenmacher. In: Johannes Neuhardt (Hrg): Geschnitztes Steinbockhorn, Salzburg 1990, S. 56–63.

*Friederike Zaisberger: Das Steinwild in Salzburg. Jagd und Hege einst und jetzt. In: Johannes Neuhardt (Hrg): Geschnitztes Steinbockhorn, Salzburg 1990, S. 18–33.

Johannes Neuhardt: Geschnitztes Steinbockhorn. In: Weltkunst, Jg. 60, Heft 14, 1990, S. 2164–2166.

Eugen von Philippovich: Kuriositäten, Antiquitäten ein Handbuch für Sammler und Liebhaber ; 12 Farbtaf. u. 355 Abb., Braunschweig 1966.

Eugen von Philippovich: Steinbockhornarbeiten der Barockzeit aus Salzburg. In: Alte und moderne Kunst, XXIV, 192 u. 193, 1984, S. 18–22.

Nora Watteck: Geschnitztes Steinbockhorn. Ein vergessener Zweig des Salzburger Kunsthandwerks. In: Alte und moderne Kunst, 58/59, 1962, S. 27–31.