The body of each of this pair of very unusual rosewater sprinklers of gilded (gold plated) silver with traces of red-pink enamel features four swans, the heads of which come right out of the body of each sprinkler. The swans emerge from flowers and foliage.
Both sprinklers sit on lozenge-shaped feet. The necks comprise the heads of two elephants with necks entwined, and on the tips of their trunks are balanced large flower-form heads that are pierced to emit droplets of scented water.
The European styling of the swans may have its origins in the presence in Lucknow of the Frenchman Claude Martin, an eighteenth century engineer-architect who had a profound influence on local architecture. Martin was particularly close to the ruling Nawabs.
Such sprinklers were used in India at important ceremonies such as weddings. They were also used to scent rooms, and were offered to guests as they arrived at an important home so that they might freshen up after a journey.
Surviving examples of matched pairs of Indian sprinklers are relatively rare; usually the two become separated.
The sprinklers are in fine condition. They sit flatly and show ample signs of age. The gilding has developed a soft hue with age and use. There is some age-related residual tarnishing.
Llewellyn-Jones, R. (ed.), Lucknow: City of Illusion (The Alkazi Collection of Photography), Prestel, 2006.
Markel, S. et al, India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow, LACMA/DelMonico Books, 2010.
Terlinden, C., Mughal Silver Magnificence,Antalga, 1987.
Zebrowski, M., Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, Alexandria Press, 1997.