This round plaque of gilded copper is profusely decorated with applied gilded filigree in tight, dense swirls, inlaid with many dozens of turquoise, rock crystal cabochons and other semi-precious stones and foil-backed glass cabochons, all around a central gilded and repoussed seated, crowned figure of what is probably the deity Bhairava (Bhairava is the fierce manifestation of Shiva associated with destruction, and is one of the most important deities in the Kathmandu Valley). Around the central roundel are two borders. The initial one is engraved with a Chinese-style key-fret design. The outer border is wider and is chased with repeated stylised orchid motifs.
Five large moths with fat bodies set with red cabochon stones and gilded wings, all within roundels, are arrayed around the central deity figure. Between these and elsewhere, are flowers set with more stone cabochons.
Such a plaque most likely served as a votive plaque but also might have been used as an offering dish.
The work is very much that of the Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley.
The wear, patina of the the gilding, lack of faceting to the stones, and the simple box settings for the stones suggest an 18th century dating for this piece. Boxes similarly decorated in the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art are accorded a 17th-18th century dating. The Metropolitan Museum of Art uses a wider dating of 17th-19th for Newar items with related decoration.
The plaque and a narrow skirting that runs around the edge of the underside and this is drilled with small holes all the way around to suggest that the plaque might have been further decorated by dangles all the way around.
There are some losses to the applied filigree and some stones also are missing as is befitting the item’s age, but overall, it is in good condition. The gilding has worn to a pleasing tone. Overall, this is a fine item.
Bazin, N., et al, Nepal: Art de le Vallee de Katmandou, Musee National des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet, 2021.
Beguin, G., Art Esoterique de l’Himalaya: La Donation Lionel Fournier, Musee National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet/Reunion des Musees Nationaux, 1990.
Lipton, B., & N.D. Ragnubs, Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collections of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, Oxford University Press, 1996.
Pal, P., Desire and Devotion: Art from India, Nepal, and Tibet in the John and Berthe Ford Collection, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2001.