Friday Photo: Cry of the Oliphant

IMG_1019Today’s Friday Photo is a detail-image of an ivory hunting horn, created in southern Italy during the 11th-12th centuries and now on display at the Walters Art Museum. Hunting was an important pastime in many mediaeval cultures, because it allowed participants to display their military prowess and social standing. It also facilitated the creation of the important social bonds which tied rulers and their aristocratic subjects together. In mediaeval Wales, the importance of hunting is communicated both in the lawcodes and in literature, where an elaborate etiquette governed the hunt (for example, only the huntsman could request that the king hold the bridle of his horse.) Many mediaeval Islamic cultures also retained the hunt as a social ritual, in part because of Persian antecedents. This particular horn, with its fine workmanship and precious material, is a clear statement of high social standing. Less a functional item than a status object, it could have been created to honour St Hubert, patron saint of hunting.

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