Tanjore Encrusted Ware – Indian Inlay

Tanjore Encrusted Ware – Indian Inlay
Tanjore-ware originates and gets its name from the city of Tanjore, now called Thanjavur, in southern India and has similarities with the 19th century ‘swami’ silver which was made in the Madras, now called Chennai, area, a short distance away. Hindu gods and mythical beings are depicted in the same distinctive style in both, heavily influenced by the ancient stone carvings which can be found in the numerous temples within this region, particularly the ‘Great Lving Chola Temples’, now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.



The base material is brass and the inlay is of copper or occasionally silver. The most common form is a traditional Indian water jug or lota.

Firstly, the vessel is moulded out of brass and formed to the desired shape. It is then engraved with the intended design. Next, the copper inlay is fashioned and shaped to fit the engraving and hammered into position. The inlaid piece does not lie flush with the surface of the vessel but projects outward (this is sometimes referred to as outlay). The final step is to chase the inlaid pieces with texture and additional detailing.

Many pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries can be seen today but the art form was probably first practiced much earlier.

Tanjore Vessel Silver Inlay


This 19th century Tanjore vessel has a copper base with silver inlay. It was made in Tanjore, Southern India and was recently sold at auction in the UK.

Tanjore Lota Water Jug


This is another example of a 19th century Tanjore lota water jug with a brass base and copper inlay. The lota vessel is a traditional Indian vessel and its form is based on a gourd or melon. This piece is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (IS.29-1888).

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  • Joseph Cohen
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