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Large Silver-inlaid Bidri Basin (Silapchi)

Deccan, India
circa 1850

diameter: 42.4cm, height: 16.3cm



UK art market

This monumental, heavy basin has a large, hemispherical bowl; a flared ring foot; a wide rim; and a circular, pierced grill that sits over the well of the basin. The grill sits snugly and has a central, bud-like finial pull.

Such a basin would have been used to catch falling water as guests rinsed their hands most probably with scented rosewater on their arrival, or prior to an important meal. Such a basin was known in the Deccan as a silapchi (also spelt sailabchi).

It is decorated with silver inlay and a darkened ground known as the Bidri technique.

The sides of the base and rim are decorated with carnation flower scrolls within leafy borders.

The foot is decorated with a row of silver leaf-like dashes.

Bidriware originated in the city of Bidar in the Deccan. It is cast from an alloy of mostly zinc with copper, tin and lead. The vessels so decorated are overlaid or inlaid with silver, but also sometimes brass and gold. A paste that contains sal ammoniac is then applied which turns the alloy dark black but leaving the silver, brass or gold unaffected.

The basin here is in fine condition. Most of the silver inlay is intact, with minor losses to the foot ring and here and there about the base.

A similar, though slightly smaller example comprises lot 110 at Christie’s, ‘Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds’, London, May 2, 2019. A related example in the Victoria & Albert Museum is illustrated in Stronge (1985, p. 81). Another in the AIHB Crafts Museum, New Delhi, is illustrated in Aditi (1982, p. 136).


Aditi, Festival of India, The Handicrafts and Handlooms Exports Corporation of India Ltd, 1982.

Mittal, J., Bidri Ware and Damascene Work: in Jagdish & Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, Jagdish & Kamla Mittal Museum or Art, 2011.

Sharma R.C. et al, Alamkara: 5000 Years of Indian Art, National Heritage Board (Singapore)/Mapin, 1994.

Stronge, S., Bidri Ware: Inlaid Metalwork from India, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1985.

Zebrowski, M., Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, Alexandria Press, 1997.

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