This form of hookah, with its waisted body and projecting spout at one side, does not appear before the nineteenth century, nor was its use confined to a particular part of India. This example however, is particularly finely cast and is made of very high-grade solid silver (a grade higher than sterling).
The main body has a particularly flared base which is finely chased with a wide acanthus leaf border. The top of the base has a further acanthus border and a beautiful shoulder of petal-like lappets. The stem has various gadrooned spheres and other elements and this rises to the wide charcoal bowl (which shows ample signs of use) with matching borders of petal lappets and acanthus leaves.
The pipe outlet in the base is attached to the base with a stylised silver snake, perhaps a play on the fact that the pipe attached to the hookah often was called the hookah snake. This set retains its original ‘snake’ which is in exceptionally fine condition. The ends are of carved horn and the pipe itself is of carefully woven strips of lantana or rushes.
The set overall is sculptural, very high quality and in excellent condition.
Archer, M. et al, Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle, The National Trust, 1987.
Stronge, S., Bidri Ware: Inlaid Metalwork from India, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1985.