Comical Tinned Bronze Hookah Base in the Form of a Dolphin
height: 23cm, width: 13cm, weight: 1.029kg
This northern Indian hookah base rather whimsically is in the form of a dolphin. The dolphin emits the opening for the main hookah pipe from its fleshy lips in such a way that it appears to have a cheeky smile on its face. Altogether, the casting is quite comical and undoubtedly unusual.
The base stands solidly on a circular foot. Cast in bronze, the base is tinned all over, and the tin finish is largely intact. (Tinning metal items was quite common in the Islamic world. Tin was felt to be stable and non-reactive, and so suitable particularly for finishing utensils.)
Smaller Indian hookah bases sometimes are encountered in the form of a mango, but relatively few have an animal form.
A hookah of similar form, also in the form of a comical dolphin, is in the Nasser Khalili collection and illustrated in Rogers (2007, p. 238). The Khalili example is attributed to the seventeenth century.
Rogers, J.M., The Arts of Islam: Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2007, p. 238.
Inventory no.: 781