top of page
  • Writer's pictureAMIS Blogs


Updated: Apr 6, 2020

By Bradley Strauchen-Scherer

Demilune horn “grand cor,” 1600-1650, Raulin Cretien I or Raulin Cretien II (France, Paris), Brass

Length alongside outside curve: 108 cm

Purchase, Elizabeth A.R. and Ralph S. Brown Jr. Gift, 2020 (2020.4)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is excited to announce the acquisition of a cornucopia of horns to its collection that highlight key moments in the instrument’s history. These instruments span over two hundred years, from forest and hunting field to the increasingly chromatic soundscapes of nineteenth-century music making. All of the instruments were acquired from the collection of Werner Flachs, whose fascination with the horn grew out of his keen interest in hunting history and culture. For many years, these instruments were displayed in the Schweizer Museum für Wild und Jagd, housed in Schloss Landshut, near Bern, Switzerland.


The poetic name “demilune” describes the profile of this instrument, which is one of the earliest forms of the hunting horn. Its crescent shape echoes instruments made of natural materials such as animal horn and elephant tusk. The brass body of this horn appears to have been formed from a single sheet that was shaped and joined with a longitudinal seam that is tabbed in the area of the bell before becoming a butt join along the remaining length of the instrument. The maker’s hand is visible in burnishing and hammer marks on the instrument’s surface. The bell interior bears traces of black pigment. The body of the instrument bears three brass rings, two mounted on ferrules encircling the body tubing and one mounted on the bell garland, for attachment to a baldric or carrying strap.

An intricately crenelated garland adorns and strengthens the bell. It is stamped with a repeating pattern of flowers and embossed with the maker’s mark comprising a stag looking over its shoulder standing atop the initials RC. The whole is contained in a circle in the manner of a cartouche. Stamped on the bell body immediately above the maker’s mark is the text VERNON, possibly referring to place of manufacture.

Horns like this have been popular signaling instruments for centuries and their use is often depicted in tapestries and other contemporaneous art. An instrument very much like this Cretien horn can be seen in the allegorical tapestry titled Vanity Sounds the Horn, held in the Met’s medieval art collection. Like oliphants, these crescent-shaped horns were important badges of status and as such, often appear in heraldic devices and crests. This acquisition represents the earliest signed brass instrument in the Met’s collection.

Detail from Vanity Sounds the Horn (from The Hunt of the Frail Stag), tapestry fragment, South Netherlandish, ca. 1500–1525, Bequest of Mary Stillman Harkness, 1950 (50.145.4).

Trompe de Chasse

This large brass hunting horn is wrapped in typical circular form with its body tubing coiled 2 ½ times and secured to the bell and mouthpiece receiver with double sets of folded braces. Anecdotal sources suggest that horns with these duplicate sets of braces were reserved for the lead huntsman. The bell has a single, wedge-shaped gusset, indicating that two separate sheets were used for its manufacture. Longitudinal burnishing marks are visible on the bell section, revealing how the piece was worked on a mandrel. The bell interior has been painted black (a recent restoration in imitation of the instrument’s original finish), as is typical with hunting horns so that the bright metal does not “dazzle” horses and quarry in the sun. The bell garland is stamped with a repeating pattern of fleurs-de-lis, place of manufacture, and the maker’s name: FAIT A PARIS PAR / CRETIEN ORDINAIRE DV ROI.

Trompe de chasse “Dauphine,” ca. 1700, Cretien, France, Paris

Width across coils: 50cm; width across bell opening: 285 mm

Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 2020 (2020.3)

This elegant form of the hunting horn was given the name “trompe Dauphine” because it was adopted as the official hunting horn of the French court the year the Dauphin, future King Louis XV, was born. Horns like this were central to the elaborate and famed hunt at Versailles. The long tube length of the trompe Dauphine (14 foot D) could produce at least 16 notes of the harmonic series, which enabled huntsmen to play a repertoire of intricate calls to keep members of the hunting party apprised of events unfolding in the field. The trompe was also played to entertain listeners before and after the hunt. The sophisticated design and melodic capabilities of these French instruments gave rise to the development of the horn as a musical instrument. Because of the importance of the hunt as a reflection of wealth and noble status, stylized horns were often employed as decorative motifs, as can be seen in wall panels of the the Louis XV interior displayed in the European sculpture and decorative arts galleries at the Met Museum.