Inventory no.: 1223

Colonial Indian Silver – Madras


High-Grade Silver Teapot in the Style of P. Orr

Madras, India

circa 1880

height: 15cm,

length: 27cm, weight: 959g

This elegantly proportioned, silver teapot features various stylised Hindu deities and village and temple procession scenes. As such it falls into the oeuvre of Madras ‘Swami ware’ popularised principally by the Madras silversmithing firm P. Orr & Sons. It has an extravagant cobra-styled handle in which a cast infant Krishna crawls. A fleshy and finely engraved spout terminates with a bug-eyed yali-head opening. The hinged lid has a cross-legged deity to serve as a finial. The shoulder of the body of the teapot is finely and elegantly chased with a repeated acanthas leaf motif. The teapot has been made of particularly high-grade silver of which no quantity of silver has been spared: the teapot weighs almost a kilogram and is noticeably heavy in the hand.

This teapot is unmarked but is very much in the style of the Madras firm P Orr & Sons. The extravagant use of silver also suggests as association with the Orr workshop.

The firm was founded by Peter Orr, an expatriate watchmaker from Edinburgh, around 1848 and later operated from premises in Mount Street, Madras. It became known as P Orr & Sons in 1863. The firm made its reputation when three maharajas – the Gaekwar of Baroda, the Maharaja of Cohin and the Maharaja Holkar – commissioned from it various gifts that were presented to the Prince of Wales during his visit to India in 1875-76. P Orr & Sons specialised in what became known as ‘swami ware’ – ‘swami’ because of the decorative themes based on Hindu deities and the associated festival processions.

This teapot is free of any dents, splits or repairs. There is a small amount of age-related wear to the detail from polishing over the years. Overall, it is a fine example of a desirable style of colonial Indian silver tea ware. See (Dehejia, 2008) for a similar teapot.


Dehejia, V., Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj, Mapin, 2008.

Inventory no.: 1223