Origin: India (Western India, Possibly Gujarat)

Date: 18/19th century

Materials: mother-of-pearl and bone

Length: 19x17x10 (HxWxD)

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A fine example of a high quality Indian powder flask, from the Western region of India, possibly from Gujarat. These were designed to hold gunpowder and were designed/shaped like a nautilus shell. The powder flask of India were utilised to carry gun powder and to keep it dry from any damp or water. Indian culture is known for having elaborate arms and armour and fine items, and the powder flasks were no exception. These were often elegant and showed off craftsmanship and intricate detailing and worn at the wearer’s waist.

Our example is of a sizeable gunpowder flash formed from a hollowed-out nautilus shell. The body is spiralled and has a tight coil centre. The top cylindrical portion of the shell is intricately carved and contains slender strips of mother-of-pearl inserts in a boxed form with brown coloured inserts. The spout at the top of the shell is connected to the locket to allow for the opening and closing mechanism. In terms of design, the mother-of-pearl and ivory inserts are made to follow the natural curvature of the shell-shape; with the shell giving off a very exceptional metallic spark. The mother-of-pearl and ivory inserts are meticulously selected by the artisan to match the metallic shine of the shell to allow for a unified and stealth expression.

For similar examples see:

Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, England, 2013, p254, fig 619.

Christie’s: Arts of India, London – South Kensington, 1st October 2012 lot 45

Christie’s: Important European Furniture, Sculpture and Carpets Including the Beit Collection of Early European Bronzes, London, 7th December 2006, lot 24 (price realized £7,800)

Overall a very good example of an Indian powder flash of high craftsmanship and detailing. The design and sophistication of the decoration on our example places it amongst the good quality objects in Mughal India.


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