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Rare 17th Century Deccanese Bidriware Hookah Base: A Study in Elegance

The hookah base in question represents a unique and rare piece of Deccanese craftsmanship from the late 17th century. This particular item stands out in the realm of Bidriware, not for the intricate inlay work that is characteristic of the genre, but rather for its absence. At a height of 28cm, this undecorated Bidriware hookah base is a testament to the elegance of simplicity and the beauty of form over ornamentation.

Bidriware, traditionally, is celebrated for its striking contrast between the glossy black background and the intricate silver or ‘white metal’ inlays that depict various themes ranging from floral motifs to geometric patterns. The technique involves casting an alloy of zinc and copper and then inlaying it with silver, followed by the application of a solution made from copper sulphate to turn the surface black, thereby highlighting the inlaid designs.

However, this particular piece diverges from the norm. It has undergone the initial stages of Bidriware creation, including being cast in white brass and treated with copper sulphate to achieve the anticipated black patination. Yet, it remains undecorated, without the silver inlay that one might expect. This deviation from the decorated norm provides a unique insight into the Bidriware process, showcasing the beauty of the material and the form itself without the embellishment of inlay work.

The choice to leave this hookah base plain might have been intentional, emphasizing the purity of the form and the inherent beauty of the material. Alternatively, it could represent an unfinished piece, offering a glimpse into the craftsman’s process before the final decorative steps were applied. Regardless of the reason, its undecorated nature makes it a rare find.

The patination process, which involves coating the cast white brass in copper sulphate, results in a distinctive finish that is characteristic of Bidriware. This process, even without the addition of inlay, highlights the craftsmanship involved in creating such pieces and the aesthetic choices that differentiate one item from another.

Dating back to circa 1800, this hookah base is not just a functional object but a piece of art that reflects the cultural and historical context of its creation. It embodies the rich heritage of the Deccan region of India, known for its artistic innovation and the blending of local and Persian influences.

In conclusion, this rare Deccanese late 17th-century undecorated Bidriware hookah base is a remarkable piece that stands out for what it lacks as much as for its craftsmanship. Its existence challenges the conventional expectations of Bidriware, inviting admirers to appreciate the subtlety of its form and the elegance of its unadorned surface. As such, it represents a unique and valuable addition to any collection of Indian art or historical artifacts.

Nicholas Wells Antiques advisors are available to answer all your questions. 

Please email us or call +44 (0)207 6920 897

Deccanese Bidriware Hookah Base

Stock Number: 66834

A rare Deccanese late 17th century undecorated Bidriware hookah base.

India circa 1800
  • Height : 28 cm (11 inches)

£3,300

This unique piece is subject to availability.
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Telephone: +44 (0) 207 6920 897

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Approximate Dimensions

  • Height : 28 cm (11 inches)

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Our description of any item on the website, any condition report and any other statement made by us (whether orally or in writing) about any item, including about its nature or condition, artist, period, materials, approximate dimensions, or provenance are our opinion and not to be relied upon as a statement of fact.

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In the UK Online sales of this kind are known as ‘distance selling’. We offer a refund to customers if you’ve told us within 3 days of receiving the goods that you want to cancel. You have another 14 days to return the goods once you’ve told us of your intention. A refund will be issued within 14 days of receiving the goods back in the same condition. Return shipping should be the same level as received with insurance, we recommend using the same shipper at your cost. If needed we will help organise suitable shipping.

We will refund the purchase price, excluding delivery costs and taxes, within 14 days of the safe receipt of items in the same condition as supplied. The liability for any damage incurred during transit will remain with the sender. We recommend that adequate insurance is placed on items when returning them to us.

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Our preferred international shipping methods include fine art shippers Gander and White, Art Logistics, Cadogan Tate for items over £5,000. For Fedex, DHL or UPS shipments we expertly pack in-house in wooden crates or heavy duty cardboard – Suitable for most items under £5000. If you have your own shippers we are very happy to coordinate with them.

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