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This magnificent rosewater sprinkler is made entirely of turned ivory. It is more exceptional for the fact that its original, protective wooden case coloured in olive-green has been retained.
The sprinkler is of conventional form, with a foot, reservoir body, stem, and flower-form head that is pierced to emit the flow of rosewater.
It is decorated by having been lightly engraved on all components with flowers, bunches of flowers and borders of petals and roundels and this has been coloured with green and reds of various shades.
The underside of the foot is decorated with a central circle infilled with red surrounded by a circle of green.
Finely carving ivory and then decorating it by engraving it lightly and filling this in with coloured lac was done in both India and Sri Lanka. This fine piece could be from either.
Pal (1981, p 101) illustrates a model of a Sri Lankan stupa (dagoba) attributed to the 18th century which shows similar red over-painting as on this piece. Ivory fan handles were similarly decorated. At the same, time, the floral decoration with its symmetrical bunches of flowers is quire Mughal-inspired its conception – see the Mughal-esque enamel work on a silver hookah base from late 18th century Lucknow for an example in Zebrowski (1997, p. 87).
The sprinkler fits perfectly inside its protective case which has been turned from light-coloured wood and then stained.
The case is in excellent condition. There is a small, barely discernible restoration to the edge of the nozzle of the sprinkler, which otherwise is in excellent condition.
Coomaraswamy, A.K., Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Pantheon Books, 1956 reprint of the 1908 edition.
Pal, P., Elephants and Ivories in South Asia, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1981.
Terlinden, C., Mughal Silver Magnificence, Antalga, 1987.
Zebrowski, M., Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, Alexandria Press, 1997.