5711

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Madras Silver-Gilt Makara Bracelet

Madras, South India
circa 1870

external diameter at widest point: 8.2cm, internal diameter: at widest point: 5.2cm, weight: 51g

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Provenance

UK art market

This particularly beautiful bracelet is of gilded (gold-plated) silver. It is in two parts that are hollow and hinged, coming together with a screw mechanism.

The bracelet is a fine example of South Indian silver work, production of which centred on Madras.

Comprising chased silver sheet, it has two fierce makara head terminals. Remarkably, each of the two halves comprises another six makara heads each disgorging the next head.

Between the principal makaras, in their gaping mouths, is a magical, round jewel decorated in high relief with floral motifs. The jewel is surmounted by a finial that hides a screw that keeps the two halves of the bracelet together, and this is topped with a cabochon ruby or similar.

The eyeballs of the two main makaras also are mounted with cabochon red stones.

The screwing mechanism that holds the two halves of the bracelet together screws tightly and firmly.

This example is particularly fine with the attention to detail that has been paid to its construction.

Utracht (1997, p.254) illustrates a very similar example in silver, and comments that such bracelets also were made in gold and that they were given by rajas to their male subjects as a mark of favour. Indeed, examples in gold were made exclusively for royal households. They were of course also made for the colonial European market and became popular with wealthier Victorian women.

The example here is in excellent condition and is stable and wearable. The gilding has mellowed with time and has an attractive softness.

References

Utracht, O., Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames & Hudson, 1997.

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