Michael Backman Ltd - Home  

Rare & Unusual Chased Silver Water Jug
India, probably Amritsar
circa 1880

height: 32cm, weight: 1,023g

This highly unusual and possibly unique solid silver water jug is most probably from colonial Amritsar, northern India. That alone makes this piece quite rare.
But the form is also rare. No such similar piece appears to have been published.

The jug has an elongated, tapering body and sits on a flared foot. The top of the body widens to a circular mouth that has a domed, hinged cover. The cover
is topped by a well-cast acorn.

The body is beautifully decorated with a honeycomb-lattice structure that is infilled with Mughal-inspired flowers and foliage. The hinged lid or cover fits snugly
and is chased with a fine double-lotus petal border and other blossoms.

The handle is particularly unusual cast as a long-haired female figure with thick, long hair emerging from the mouth of a fish. Her hands are clasped together,
she wears a high diadem in her hair and much other jewellery about her neck, wrists and arms.

Why an attribution of Amritsar? The chasing and motifs appear to be a blend of patterns used in Kutch but also Kashmir, which suggests the Sikh capital as a  
place of manufacture. As mentioned, colonial silver from Amritsar is rare; few examples have been published. Dehejia (2008, p. 91) illustrates a three-piece
tea set which has some similarities with the jug here - cartouches infilled with flower motifs that have similar scrollwork and which are neither Kutch not Kashmiri
but something in between; and the use of lotus petal borders

As Dehejia points out Amritsar had strong political and cultural ties with Kashmir and that after 1846. Kashmir accepted the Sikh feudatory Gulab Singh as its
ruler in exchange for the presence of a British resident in its capital Srinagar. Its wealth and relative proximity to Kutch suggest that several Kutch silversmiths
might have migrated to Amritsar where their work was influenced by local motifs.

The jug is in excellent condition. The interior has a fine gilt wash.

Dehejia, V.,
Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj, Mapin, 2008.
Wilkinson, W.R.T.,
Indian Silver 1858-1947, 1999.

Provenance: UK art market

Inventory no.: 2018 SOLD

Click here to see more examples of colonial Indian silverwork.