Brass Ewer inlaid with Lead & Zinc
North India or Deccan
height: 33cm, width: 31.5cm, weight: 2,080g
This brass ewer of broad, flattened, pear-shaped form with a stylised, zoomorphic handle; long, straight spout; original, domed lid with bud-like finial and flared, hexagonal foot is engraved all over with scrolling flower motifs within geometric borders. The engraved designs have been inlaid with zinc and lead.
The only other ewer of this type with an engraved floral surface inlaid with lead and zinc that we know to have been published is attributed to the Dauphin Collection and illustrated in Zebrowski (1997, p. 164). The Dauphin Collection example is ascribed to circa 1700 and either to North India or to the Deccan.
Typical Islamic ewers from Persia and the surrounding region comprised a central chamber to which a spout, foot, handle and neck were attached. They permitted water to flow – Koranic injunctions deemed flowing water to be ‘clean’. Ewers were introduced to India by Muslim invaders during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Thereafter their designs were Indianised – the ewers became more curvaceous and were decorated with lush plant and floral motifs.
In India, local Muslims used such vessels for handwashing. They became a practical tool of hospitality, being used to welcome visitors by pouring scented water over the hands and feet and into a basin. In this way, the motifs employed on such vessels in Northern India can be seen as particularly appropriate: the scrolling arabesques and trellised cartouches of floral sprays so clearly evident in this example can be seen as representative of a paradisical garden, a destination of pleasure and balm – the orderly, repeated pattern of floral cartouches can be seen as representing the ordered layout of the idealised Islamic garden (Thomas, 2011).
The condition of this example is very good: there are no significant dents or splits; the lid is original and the ewer sits solidly and in a stable manner.
Thomas, D.,’The carnation ewer – an example of Ottoman influence on North Indian ewers’, unpublished paper, 2011.
Zebrowski, M., Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, Alexandria Press, 1997.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 1568