Rare Repoussed & Chased Silver Tinder Tube
length: 15.2cm, weight: 41g
Indian silver tinder tubes are relatively rare. They were used to hold a thick textile cord that served as a wick that was used to light muskets and canons.
This example comprises a long, silver tube decorated all over with birds, various Hindu gods such as Krishna and Matsya (the fish avatar of Vishnu), along with birds and
yali-type creatures, against a background of dense floral relief.
The lid has a silver conical stopper that sits inside the tube and to which the wick would have been attached, and a hollow, slightly flattened ball finial decorated alternatively with plain panels and panels chased with foliage motifs. A loop finial allows for a silver chain to be attached which is attached to the tube itself.
Trichinpoloy (known as Tiruchirappalli today) is less than 350 kilometres from Madras, but under the British East India Company and later, British colonial administration, its silversmiths developed a unique style that incorporated the ‘swami’ style of Madras with incredibly dense and fine floral and foliage relief work. The silver and gold items produced in Trichinopoly tended to be small, luxurious items such as snuff boxes and perfume bottles. This tinder tube is well within that oeuvre.
Overall, this is a fine example of an unusual and historically interesting item.
Dehejia, V., Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj, Mapin, 2008.
Terlinden, C., Mughal Silver Magnificence, Antalga, 1987.
Wilkinson, W.R.T., Indian Silver 1858-1947, 1999.
Inventory no.: 1443