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    Courtly Mughal Carnelian Kohl or Scent Flask with Gold Mounts

    Mughal, Northern India
    circa 1700

    height: 7.5cm, width: 3.1cm, weight: 25g



    private collection, London, UK

    This fine, small flask as been carved and hollowed out from a single piece of dark orange carnelian. It has then been fitted with solid-gold mounts – top and bottom – and has a carnelian stopper with a heart-shaped gold finial. It is a small item of sheer luxury and no doubt was intended for a member of the court or similar in Mughal India.

    The form is based on small blue-and-white porcelain flasks with the same form and dimensions that were produced in China for the Islamic market during the Qing Dynasty’s Kangxi period (1662 to 1722).  Often these were then fitted with silver and other metal mounts after they reached their destination. (We have two examples in stock – see here and here.)

    Such small flasks appear to have been intended to hold perfume, scented powder or kohl used for eye lining. Small flasks of similar height of rock crystal with gold mounts also were produced in Mughal India (see Stronge, 2015, p. 81, for an example.)

    Carnelian occasionally was used in Mughal India to carve small items such as finger rings (see Keene, 2001, p. 39) for a 17th century example carved from a single piece of carnelian that makes the hoop and the finished with gold inlay. Carnelian was much favoured in the Islamic world because the Prophet Mohamed is said to have worn a ring set with a carnelian stone.

    The carnelian here has pleasing blood red flecks and colour variations which add to the flask’s decorative value.

    The flask is in excellent condition.


    Keene, M., Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals – The Al-Sabah Collection Kuwait National Museum, Thames & Hudson, 2001.

    Pierson, S., From Object to Concept: Global Consumption and Transformation of Ming Porcelain, Hong Kong University Press, 2013.

    Stronge, S., Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection, V&A Publishing, 2015.

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