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)


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Approximate Dimensions

  • Height : 28 cm (11 inches)


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