Horn container

This container, made from carved goat horn, was acquired by William Morris whilst on a trip to Iceland.

Morris began visiting Iceland in 1871, but it is unknown on which trip he acquired the container.

Morris was a prominent Victorian artist and one of the principal founders of the Arts and Crafts movement (late 19th century – early 20th century). It was a reformist movement that influenced British and American architecture, decorative arts, crafts and design.

The beautiful carving on the container was probably done to honour Morris, with its intricate and clean floral design. Morris’s initials are engraved the brass cap. Morris is famously known for his own floral designs which were produced during the revival of traditional crafts such as stained glass painting, hand embroidery, woodblock-printed textiles and wallpaper. Morris himself single-handedly recreated the art of tapestry weaving in Britain.

The Arts and Crafts Movement supported a return to traditional techniques, and handcrafted methods. Artworks were usually made by individual craftsmen using traditional processes and natural materials. This carved artefact, although not produced during this movement, followed the handcrafted carving techniques which Morris and his colleagues were so inspired by.

The carved container is made from horn – this material (usually goat, sheep or cow) is formed from modified skin tissue and is therefore naturally quite soft and flexible. Everyday objects such as drinking containers (like this one) and bowls are all easily made and decorated from this soft, fine material.

The container was bequeathed to the museum in 1939. It was donated by Miss Mary Frances Vivian Lobb, a life-long friend and lover of May Morris (William Morris’s daughter).

Carved horn container