Sheet Gold & Gilded Copper Lamp (Sukundi)
length: 25cm, weight: 1,023g
This style of lamp was used primarily in Nepal. The large pot or pitcher which comprises the bulk of the lamp is the well for storing oil. The oil was then ladled from this to the leaf-like dish at the front which contained the wick, this being the actual lamp. Lamps such as these with an attached oil container were known as sukundi in Nepal.
It sits on a flared foot, which along with the body comprise a copper base covered in hammered sheet gold (which tests at 18-22 carats). The bulbous base is gadrooned to suggest bands of lotus petals. The waisted neck leads to a mouth with a wide rim that is engraved with a band of geometric designs. The gilded handle is in the form of a horned snarling serpent with a scaly body. The thickly gilded lamp dish is surmounted by a gilded cast figure of Ganesh backed by a leafy aureole.
Thickly overlaying gold on copper teapots was a method used in the eighteenth and early ninteenth centuries by Nepalese craftsmen both on Nepalese ritual objects and also on items made for Tibetan clients. Sotheby’s New York, ‘Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art’ sale of 21-22 March 1990 included as lot
340 a Tibetan-style teapot that is similarly overlaid and gilded. The Musee Guimet in Paris has on display a lamp similar to the example here but rather than being overlaid with gold it is gilded. The Guimet example is attributed to the 17th century. (See the image below.)
Overall, this lamp has an excellent sculptural presence and the gold covering has a soft, buttery feel from many years of handling.
UK art market.
Kelkar, D.G., Lamps of India, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India, 1961; and Anderson, S., Flames of Devotion: Oil Lamps from South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayas, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2006.
Inventory no.: 1068