5151

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Mughal or Batavian Silver Flask

Northern India, or the Dutch East Indies
17th-18th century

height: 37cm, weight: 930g

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Provenance

UK art market

This very fine, monumental flask meant for wine or water is of high-grade, thick-walled silver.  No silver was economised on in its manufacture – it weighs almost one kilogram.

It features a spherical base which sits on a very low ring foot. The tall, tapering neck is decorated with three pearled ribs and rises to a small opening over which sits a domed lid with a bud-like finial.

A silver chain joins the lid to the neck.

The surface has lots of light wear which adds to the texture and beauty of this piece. Most of the chain is original. The last third seems to be a later replacement, but it blends in.

The purity of the silver and the weight of the object suggest this piece was commissioned for an aristocratic or very well-to-do client.

The photographs here don’t quite capture the quality of the piece (high-grade silver often is difficult to photograph because of reflection problems.)

The precise origins of this piece are unclear. There are no maker’s or assay marks. The style is very much in keeping with the northern Indian, Islamic-Mughal aesthetic of the 17th and 18th centuries. However, this style was also emulated in the Dutch East Indies where such items were made for both colonial Dutch and local clients. Corrigan et al (2015, p. 104) reproduces a well-known photograph taken around 1920, for example, of the Sultan of Ternate in the Dutch East Indies which shows the sultan’s ancestral silver collection, most of which was probably made in Batavia. Several silver flasks are shown, including one which has proportions similar to the example here.

Overall, this is a splendid, sculptural piece, in excellent condition and with a superb patina.

 

References

Corrigan, K., J. van Campen, & F. Diercks (eds.), Asian in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age, Peabody Essex Museum/Rijksmuseum, 2015.

Eliens, T.M., Silver from Batavia/Zilver uit Batavia, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag/W Books, 2012.

Voskuil-Groenewegen, S.M., V.O.C. – Zilver: Zilver uit de Periode de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, 17de en 18de eeuw, Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag, 1983.

Voskuil-Groenewegen, S.M. et alZilver uit de tijd van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, Waanders Uitgevers, 1998.

Zebrowski, M., Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, Alexandria Press, 1997.

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