Inventory no.: 1263

Silver Lucknow Royal Emblem

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Silver Emblem & Arms of Mohammed Wajed ‘Ali Shah, the Nawab of Oudh (Awadh)

Lucknow, India

1847-1856

length: 22.2cm, height: 15.3cm, weight: 225g

This emblem incorporating a set of arms is from Lucknow and is the royal emblem of Mohammed Wajed ‘Ali Shah, the Nawab of Oudh (Awadh) who rules Oudh from 1847 to 1856. The Nawabs of Oudh were the hereditary rulers of the state of Oudh of which Lucknow was their capital. The emblem is of cast and chased silver enclosed by silver backing plates. The emblem most probably was made to embellish a state carriage, a sedan chair or perhaps an article of furniture – a bed, a chair or perhaps even a throne chair.

There are various versions of the Nawabs’ emblem, usually they were modified for each new Nawab as he took the throne. This emblem, the emblem for Mohammed Wajed ‘Ali Shah, comprises arms of an Indian shield with four knobs, surmounted by the royal crown of Oudh upheld by supports which comprise two winged mermaids with

morchhals (fans) and royal pennons. The crest comprises the royal umbrella, topped by a bird (the form of this bird and the umbrella are used as architectural elements on Oudh public buildings in Lucknow to crest domes and finials), and the compartment comprises two swords and a listel. The twin fish (matsya) and the angels (dewa) of past emblems have merged into the winged mermaids of the present example.

An example of a Nawab emblem was employed on the Jal Pari (the Mermaid Gateway), which was one of the entrances to the Nawabs’ Qaisarbargh Palace complex. The gates were demolished around 1870.

The ruling family of Oudh established themselves as independent hereditary rulers during the collapse of Mughal power during the early eighteenth century.

The strategic position of their capital and the Oudh province, prompted the British to use them as a buffer state between their own territories in the east, and the west. However the British used the inevitable intrigue and jockeying in the Oudh court to exert greater and greater influence. By the turn of the nineteenth century they managed to virtually exercise a veto right on the succession. The Nawabs devoted much of their time trying to project the outward signs of their sovereignty and regality, rather than exerting their power. Accordingly, Lucknow became an important centre for court arts.

Wajid ‘Ali Shah was the last Nawab of Oudh. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Nawabs had lost their political and military usefulness to the British, and so the British under Dalhousie, Governor General of the East India Company, annexed the kingdom outright in 1856 on the grounds of internal misrule. It was in Oudh where the first great revolt of Indian Independence started in 1857. Meanwhile Wajid ‘Ali Shah was exiled to Calcutta with most of his family.

Certainly Wajid ‘Ali Shah had shown little interest in administration. He took a personal interest in the arts which reached a high point in Lucknow during his rule and preferred to spend his time with musicians, poets, concubines and eunuchs. His court was beset with corruption and yet the arts flourished.

Interest in the arts of Lucknow has been heightened with an exhibition India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow staged at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art December 12, 2010 to February 27, 2011 and the Guimet Museum in Paris April 6 to July 11, 2011.

References

Llewellyn-Jones, R. (ed.), Lucknow: City of Illusion (The Alkazi Collection of Photography), Prestel, 2006.

Trivedi, S.D.,

Masterpieces in the State Museum, Lucknow, 1989.

Markel, S.

et al, India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow, LACMA/DelMonico Books, 2010.

Provenance

UK art market

Inventory no.: 1263

SOLD

& here

Muhammad ali Shah (ruled 1837-42) wearing the crown of the Nawabs of Awadh as depicted in the Nawabs’ coats of arms.

The Jal Pari (the Mermaid Gateway), circa 1865. The gates were demolished around 1870.

The Asafi Mosque, Lucknow, photographed in 2009.

The Bara Imambara, Lucknow, photographed in 2009.

The Asafi Mosque, Lucknow, photographed in 2009.

It is likely that the emblem was attached to the back of a chair similar to the emblem on the back of the chair on which sits a Nepalese Rana prime minister in this photograph.