This superb and realistically modelled pair of roosting peacocks is made of silver that has been chased and enamelled with multiple colours to suggest plumage and other details. The exposed silver shows traces of gilding (gold plating). The sides of each peacock are inset with large, oval, foil-backed red stone cabochons, possibly rubies or spinels.
Each sits on an up-curved silver ‘stem’ or ‘log’, which rests on an elaborate domed base that has been richly enamelled with lotus petals and other motifs as well as having an exposed silver section that has been chased with vertical bands of floral work. The upper and lower edges of the bases are decorated with multiple pendant silver spheres. The bases sit on four spherical feet decorated in blue enamel.
Enamelled silverwork like this was done in Jaipur in northern India. And this pair is likely to date to around 1870.
An elaborate model of a barge in enamelled gold, silver and gems made in Jaipur and showing related work was presented to the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) on his visit to India in 1876. This and related work led Birdwood (1880, p. 166) to comment that the enamellers of Jaipur had attained a level not matched by ‘even’ the enamellers of Paris.
The bases and the bodies of the birds are fully enclosed by silver but are likely to be filled with lac. The silver used is however quite thick sheet silver.
The pair are in excellent condition. There are no losses and only minor restoration (and now invisible) work has been carried out to restore some minor chipping to the edges of the enamelling. There are no losses or repairs to the silver.
Birdwood, G., The Industrial Arts of India, 1880.
Meghani, K., Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875-6, Royal Collection Trust, 2017.
Sharma, R.D. & M. Varadarajan, Handcrafted Indian Enamel Jewellery, Roli Books, 2004.