Batavia made for the Indian Market, or India
This exquisite filigree silver perfume set comprises a casket or box made entirely of openwork silver filigree including the base of the casket. The sides are decorated right round with sixteen repeated arched, mihrab-like panels.
The lid is hinged and there is a loop to allow for locking. Inside, there is a silver filigree panel with six circular holes to allow for six bottles to be inserted. The six bottles are of plain sheet silver, the shoulders and stoppers are gilded, providing a highly effective contrast with the rest of the silver. The casket sits with the aid of four filigree feet on a rectangular tray with gently concave sides that also is entirely composed of silver filigree.
The set is important for several reasons. Foremost, it is almost identical to a celebrated example in the British Museum (BM) displayed in the Addis Gallery of Islamic Art. (The British Museum's Tipu Sultan set has been published many times, including in Strong (2009, p. 50), Terlinden (1987 , p. 49) and Zebrowski (1997, p. 45), and analysed in a paper prepared by Sarah Longhair and Cam Sharp-Jones of University College London which can be found here.) The BM's example is believed to have been seized by the British from Tipu Sultan's palace at Seringapatam in 1799 - a set that hitherto has been considered unique.The tray that accompanies the set here clearly is contemporary with the casket and was made for it. This suggests that the BM's example also was intended to have a tray and so is incomplete.
Both the example here and the British Museum example each hold six similar silver perfume bottles but importantly the bottles are fitted into a custom-made interior plate with six holes, fashioned from the same type of filigree work as the outside casket, demonstrating that both boxes were made to hold the perfume bottles and that these are not later inserts. Hitherto, the British Museum example was the only known example of a silver filigree box of this type demonstrably made to house a set of perfume bottles. Now, there is another.
The two sets undoubtedly were made at the same time and by the same hand. Quite possibly, the set here also came from Seringapatam. We acquired it from a collector whose forebears acquired it in England in an antique shop in London as early as the 1930s, and as will be discussed, many items were looted from Tipu Sultan's palace and were distributed among the British forces and brought back to Britain.
There are differences between the set here and the British Museum example. The most notable difference, as mentioned, is that the BM's example is without a tray. The casket here has an elaborate, scalloped skirting fringe which stretches around the box bottom of the box, connecting the legs. The BM example has no such fringe and is more plain. The lock flap on the BM example has a palmette shape whereas that for the example here is tear-shaped. The BM example has two external chains on either side which attach the (hinged) lid to the sides of the box. The example here has no such chains, nor are there signs that it had such, or indeed any, chains. The BM set includes a small funnel and a ladle. These slide into small, custom-made holes in the filigree sheet that holds the bottles in place. The example here does not have any such funnel or ladle but nor are there any spaces for them to be inserted. Clearly, unlike the BM example, it never had such implements. (The funnel of the BM set has a barely visible inscription in Persian which translates as 'Hyder' which might be a reference to Tipu Sultan's father Hyder Ali, or it might be a reference to the Prophet's son-in-law.) There are slight differences in the pattern of the filigree between both boxes, but largely it is the same.
The sets would have been used for holding and mixing perfumed oils and waters particularly during festivals, dinners and other similar events to add to the luxurious atmosphere. The presence of a hinged lock suggests that such scented oils and waters were costly and needed to be safe-guarded.
|Location of Origin: Asia|
|Medium/Materials: silver, gold|
|Dimensions: length of tray: 19.4cm, depth of tray: 14.6cm - length of box including the feet: 15cm, length of box not including feet: 13cm, height of box: 9.8cm, depth of box: 10.6cm - average height of bottles: 7.8cm, typical weight: 38g – combined weight: 1,425g|
|Primary Classification: Asian Art : Indian Antiques|
|Secondary Classification: Jewelry for Sale : Antique Silver and Vertu|
|Tipu Sultan - the 'Tiger of Mysore' - lived on a fortified island known as Seringapatam surrounded by a river, in his kingdom of Mysore. His father Hyder Ali had captured the kingdom and Tipu succeeded him as its ruler. Tiou became increasingly close to France, which alarmed the British who feared France's expansion into the sub-continent.|
The Seringaptatam fortifications included a palace that housed a magnificent library of thousands of illuminated manuscripts and the toshkhana - a jewel house that held precious stones, pearls, jewellery, bullion, state documents and other important and luxury items. The entrance was guarded by chained tigers (Strong, p. 16).
Tipu Sultan's court workshops made silver items such as howdahs for the court's use but also to be given as diplomatic gifts. Ambassadors were sent to the Ottoman empire, to France and to the Isle de France (now Mauritius) with luxury goods produced by the workshops (Stronge, p. 18). Other luxury goods were imported from elsewhere in India, Europe, Iran and China. Tipu Sultan actively encouraged foreign trade. Embassies were sent to Istanbul and Paris to foster not just military links but also trade links.
Tipu Sultan was a great collector. Visitors who saw his collection of luxury goods prior to the fall of Seringapatam described it as 'stupendous' (Jasanoff, 2006, p. 184). The items came from around the world. Large quantities of gold and silver artifacts were seen in the palace when it fell in 1799 but little of it has survived. 'Tipu Sultan's treasury was initially plundered, and then formally distributed. Its wide dispersal has concealed from history the nature and extent of the arts of this most significant court of the eighteenth century' (Stronge, p. 47). The filigree box in the British Museum is one example. A large, Chinese-style salver in the Victoria & Albert Museum, is another.
|Provenance: By descent to a private collector, CaliforniaPreviously acquired in London either in the 1930s or between 1945-1955.|
|Price:||Item has been sold.|
|Offered By:||Items for sale from dealers we worked with previously|
121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
Item has been sold.
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