Antique Indian Kutch (Cutch) Silver
Figural Parrot Parasol Handle,
Oomersi Mawji, Bhuj, Kutch c. 1890

This delightfully naturalistic figural silver parasol handle shows off Mawji’s mastery of silver as a sculptural medium.  His sympathetic portrayal of the bird immediately grabs our attention; the way it has been posed, the staring eyes, bowed head and slightly open beak are so utterly characteristic of a parrot that recognition is immediate.  The detailing is very fine with different areas of feathering treated in slightly different ways and the long tail feathers are particularly splendid and elegant.

The parrot appears to be perching upon a cylinder or column of Kutch silver which provides interest and forms a wonderfully rich contrast of texture, colour and style.  The undersides of the parrot’s claws are visible and he appears to be clinging onto the column which has been ornamented in typical Kutch style with scrolling floral and foliate sprigs on a finely punched and blackened ground.   The plain silver ring at the base bears Oomersi Mawji’s mark, O.M in a rectangular cartouche.   The mark is clear and well defined.

Oomersi Mawji became the best known and most celebrated Indian silversmith of his generation. His first workshop was in Bhuj, Kutch and, with help from the Maharaja of Kutch, he became the premier Kutch silversmith, later moving to Baroda where he set up a workshop with his sons, trading as “Oomersee M and Sons, Art Silversmiths, Baroda”.  After he was appointed Royal Silversmith to the Maharaja of Kutch, he amassed a large international clientele and was renowned for his high quality, skill, fine work and exceptional design.

Mawji’s workshops were enterprising and he received many fine and important commissions. Helped by his sons and using silver of an extremely high purity (normally 95-98%) he produced many masterpieces. He worked predominantly in the Kutch style but also in the European, Madras swami and Calcutta rural village styles. Participating in several foreign expositions, he won many prizes for his work and helped to popularise Kutch silver abroad, particularly in Great Britain.

In India, parrots and parakeets featured strongly in both the Hindu and Islamic artistic traditions.  In the Hindu tradition, Kamadeva, the young and handsome God of Love, is depicted riding upon a large green parrot.  He is armed with a bow made from sugarcane and laced with a string of honey bees which he uses to shoot his stinging arrows of desire. Parrots are also associated with Meenakshi, an avatar of Parvati, the goddess of love fertility and devotion, who is mainly worshipped in Southern India, particularly at Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Meenakshi is often depicted with a parrot perched upon her right hand.  The parrot is also linked to Parvati through the story of Shiva, Parvati and Radha’s parrot, Suka.

In 2015, the art of the Muslim kingdoms known as the Deccani Sultanates was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The exhibition was titled ‘Sultans of Deccan India 1500-1700 : Opulence and Fantasy’.  A number of the exhibits featured parrots including ‘A rock-crystal knife with jewelled parrot handle’ circa 1600,  a watercolour of ‘A parrot perched on a mango tree; a ram tethered below’ from Golconda circa 1670, also used as the poster illustration for the exhibition and another watercolour of ‘A bejewelled maiden with a parakeet’ 1670-1700.

This very beautiful and finely sculpted silver handle has universal appeal and could be re-mounted onto an umbrella handle or cane or fitted onto an acrylic pedestal and displayed as a free-standing sculpture.

Provenance:-  UK art market

Size:-  Height 12 cms, Maximum width 12.5 cms (approx)

Weight: – 60 grammes

References:-

Navina Najat Haidar and Marika Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy, Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications, New York 2015

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