6166

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Highly Unusual Colonial Indian Silver Lidded Mug with Original Silk-Velvet Fitted Box

Kutch, India
circa 1870

height of mug: 15cm, width: 12cm, weight: 390g

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Provenance

private collection, UK

This very unusual lidded mug is most likely to have been a special commission. Nothing like it has been published and we are aware of no other like it. It is of solid silver and it retains the original, fitted retailer’s silk-velvet box.

The mug is of solid silver. It is of baluster form. It sits on a flared ring foot. The sides and the domed lid are chased with typically Kutch flower and leaf scrollwork.

A large roundel to one side is decorated with the figure of a woman in Indian dress holding a basket feeding roosters and chicks from a basket of grain.

The domed lid is surmounted by a caparisoned elephant finial.

But this mug’s most striking element is its handle: it is in the form of a European squirrel with the bushiest and most extravagant of tails. The squirrel hangs on to the side of the vessel providing the most whimsical of touches.

Unusually, the base is engraved with a tiger amid foliage.  This is not maker’s mark but simply more decoration. It covers the entire base. This is the first time that we have encountered an Indian colonial mug, cup or vase with the underside of the base engraved in this manner.

The fitted box is in a stable condition but with some loss to the velvet covering. The interior carries the mark for ‘John Gilliam, Goldsmith and Silversmith, Serle Street, Lincoln’s Inn’. This 19th century maker and retailer was based in London, Lincoln’s Inn being in the heart of the old legal district in the City of London. The mug was made in India but retailed in London by this goldsmith and silversmith.

The mug is in excellent condition.

References

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

Tyabji, A.,  Bhuj: Art, Architecture, History, Mapin, 2006.

Wilkinson, W.R.T., Indian Silver 1858-1947, 1999.

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