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Mughal Zinc Cooling Bottle with Silver Mounts & Lacquered Fabric Covering

Islamic Northern India
18th century

height: 31.5cm, weight: 1,269g



private collection, England.

This rare bottle comprises a bulbous base hammered and raised from plain zinc sheet, a very unusual lacquered covering, and a neck and lid of high-grade solid silver. The neck has been chased with a type of woven raffia design, and the cap has been chased with an elegant fish-scale motif. (Allusions to fish is common among Mughal designs for items associated with water and other liquids.) The small, solid-cast silver finial on the cap has been chased with an acanthus leaf motif.

The domed cap has an Mughal-like quality and is attached to the neck by means of a silver chain.

The bottle sits on a low, ring foot, that is roughly hexagonal in shape.

The zinc body is covered in a coarse, twisted-fibre mesh covering that has been painted over with red lacquer with black star motifs. The star motifs are in keeping with the item’s Islamic antecedents. It is the first time that we have encountered such a covering on a zinc cooling bottle.

Bottles such as this example were used to cool liquids – water or perhaps wine. The base would have been encased in a further cloth which was then soaked with a water and saltpetre solution to chill the contents.

An example of a similar style cooling bottle is illustrated in Terlinden (1987, p. 114.) An Ottoman example comprises lot 126 in Christie’s London, ‘Islamic Art and Manuscripts’, October 12, 2004.

Zinc as a metal, was prized throughout the Islamic world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By the second half of the seventeenth century metalworkers had discovered that zinc was quite malleable at only a little above the boiling point of water so making vessels from sheet zinc became more widespread.

The example here is in fine condition and without any obvious damage of repairs.


Christie’s London, ‘Islamic Art and Manuscripts’, October 12, 2004, lot 126.

Terlinden, C., Mughal Silver Magnificence: 16th-19th Centuries, Antalga, 1987.

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

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