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{"id":5591774167190,"title":"An Antique Indian Silver Footed Tray, Large Size, Oomersi Mawji, Bhuj, India – 1890","handle":"an-antique-indian-silver-footed-tray-large-size-oomersi-mawji-bhuj-india-1890","description":"\u003cp\u003eThis large and very decorative rectangular tray is in the aesthetic style with canted corners and bamboo borders. It has decorative entwined cane and serpent handles at each end and stands on four curved and curled spade feet. It has been ornamented with floral and foliate designs and about forty depictions of animals.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eAlmost the whole of the tray’s surface has been decorated in repousse and chased techniques with scenic vignettes to the sides interspersed with scrolling floral and foliate designs. To the outer edges of the base is a formal border of stiff alternating floral and foliate elements. A meander of plain silver separates this from the central ground containing the arching, signature kutch (cutch) scrolling floral and foliate designs and depictions of animals around a central vacant cartouche. The tray is marked to the underside ‘O.M’ and ‘Bhuj’.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMawji shows his supreme skill in this piece and the design is very complex on many different levels. There are elements of three different cultures, the Japanese inspired bamboo of the aesthetic style, the rich and wholly Indian ornamentation and the practical form of the English tea tray.  These diverse traditions have been skilfully blended together to emerge as a fourth beautiful and fully formed hybrid, with the tripartite ancestry still recognisable, but without any of the three elements appearing incongruous or having been overwhelmed.  Wilkinson comments that the bamboo border style was very popular in Bombay.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe rich ornamentation is almost three dimensional, applied in layer upon layer but there is also restraint. The incised surface appears to lie under the scrolls with the animals glimpsed almost casually out of the entwined foliage as if viewed through a break in the trees. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMawji loves to play with rhythm and contrasts and subtle changes occur throughout, formality changes to informality, rest to activity, plain to decorative, night to day, yet no element seems unnecessary, contrived or seems to jar.  His designs were extremely well planned on paper before the decoration started, so he never seems to get lost along the way but maintains a clear overall vision for the finished piece. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIt is not surprising that Oomersi Mawji was India’s most acclaimed silversmith and one of the most renowned silversmiths of his generation. In particular, his depictions of animals were highly prized, regarded as outstanding and seen as a mark of his mastery over the medium.  Some of his original workshop drawings still exist and these include many drawings similar to the depictions of the animals on this tray, they were all animals, wild and domesticated, that he would have encountered on many occasions, passing some every day.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eAlthough many of his animal pieces still exist in private collections and leading museums, we have been unable to identify any other item Mawji made which has so many and such a wide variety of animals. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIn this one single piece, he demonstrates almost the whole range of his repertoire; wild animals in their native habitats, singly and in groups, at rest and out hunting.  Man’s presence is indicated by the buildings and his direct interaction with the animal world shown by the mahouts sitting astride their elephants, the only human figures portrayed. We have counted thirty-five figures including hares, sheep, elephants, water buffalo, wild boar, deer, gazelles, lions, dogs, and a tiger, not forgetting the four additional entwined serpents coiled around the branches forming the handles.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe vignettes around the sides of the tray can be interpreted as scenes of relaxed domesticity; joy in a life lived, relaxing alone or shared with a partner or family.  The animals convey a profound sense of belonging, fulfilment, utter contentment and togetherness. They exhibit a harmonious co-existence with others ‘of the same kind’ and with the environment around them. These scenes could be envisaged as taking place in the cool of the evening or at night, the stillness is almost palpable.  There are no portrayals of people here but the buildings indicate their presence nearby and we are left to imagine their lives. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMawji uses posture and body language to suggest affection or contentment. Most of these vignettes show the animals making eye contact with each other, touching or within very close physical proximity of one and other. His animal figures are naturalistic, anatomically correct and skilfully drawn, yet he endows them with an emotional anthropomorphism, almost magically managing to convey a very human sense of emotion and connection without indulging in Victorian sentimentality.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe depictions to the base of the tray change the mood, it is daytime now and the stillness has disappeared, there is no tenderness or relaxation, the animals are alert and active. Is the stiff floral border to the edges merely a decorative device or a suggestion of cultivated fields leading down to the silver ribbon of a river with the jungle on the far side?  Within the plain border, the scenes focus on struggles for survival and supremacy, power, quarrels, aggression, nature in the raw.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eTwo mahouts on elephants are involved in an altercation, making threatening gestures at each other and their elephants have joined in the argument, one has wrapped his trunk around the other elephant’s front leg while this elephant has retaliated by wrapping his trunk around the other elephant’s mahout, trying to unseat him.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eAnother pair of competing elephants has been wrestling for dominance and control, one has just triumphed, the other is submissive. A lion with bared teeth has overpowered a gazelle, another, a deer.  The power and musculature of the lions drawn in sharp contrast to the grace and fragility of their victims. Two dogs are savaging a startled boar whilst another pair attack an antelope.  Mawji’s skilful depictions are like stills from a film, they speak to our imaginations, conveying a sense of past and future with the present. We understand what has just happened and also, what will happen next.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThere is no doubt that the figures have been arranged with great forethought, perhaps there are more profound messages that Mawji also wished to convey?  With his subtle mind, these could be philosophical observations; the swiftness with which death can strike, how life can bring a sudden reversal of fortune or how control of our destinies can be snatched away in an instant and without any prior warning. Given the prevailing political climate in India during the time he was working, another possible interpretation could be that those in charge can be toppled, that by working together as a group, those with less power can successfully challenge and bring down those who appear to be far more powerful. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThis is, of course, all pure conjecture and we shall probably never know whether Mawji’s true intention was anything other than to create a fabulous and beautiful tray which would give its owner pleasure every time it was seen or used and which would hold his attention for many years by occasionally revealing something he had never noticed or considered before.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e\u003cem\u003eProvenance:\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/strong\u003e        UK Private Collection\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e\u003cem\u003eSize:\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/strong\u003e                        Length: 48.5 cms (40 cms without handles), width: 28cms     \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e\u003cem\u003eReferences:-\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eChristie’s, Lot 280, Sale 3730, 20th May 2015, New York\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eVictoria \u0026amp; Albert Museum, London, (IS.163:2007) \u0026amp; (IS.164:1,2-2007)\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eVidya Dehejia, Delight in Design – Indian Silver for the Raj, Mapin Publishing, India 2008\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eWynyard R T Wilkinson, Indian Silver 1858-1947, Decorative Silver from the Indian Subcontinent and Burma, Made by Local Craftsmen in Western Forms,  W Wilkinson \u0026amp; Indar Pashrical Fine Arts, London 1997\u003c\/p\u003e","published_at":"2020-08-09T17:30:04+01:00","created_at":"2020-08-09T17:30:01+01:00","vendor":"Joseph Cohen Antiques","type":"Footed Tray","tags":["Sold Archive"],"price":0,"price_min":0,"price_max":0,"available":false,"price_varies":false,"compare_at_price":null,"compare_at_price_min":0,"compare_at_price_max":0,"compare_at_price_varies":false,"variants":[{"id":35686177767574,"title":"Default Title","option1":"Default Title","option2":null,"option3":null,"sku":"","requires_shipping":true,"taxable":true,"featured_image":null,"available":false,"name":"An Antique Indian Silver Footed Tray, Large Size, Oomersi Mawji, Bhuj, India – 1890","public_title":null,"options":["Default Title"],"price":0,"weight":0,"compare_at_price":null,"inventory_management":"shopify","barcode":"","requires_selling_plan":false,"selling_plan_allocations":[]}],"images":["\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/OOPK_bestOMtray.jpg?v=1596990603","\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/Z_O.M.Tray-3.jpg?v=1596990603","\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/IPHL_O.M.Tray-4.jpg?v=1596990603","\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/V2M_O.M.Tray-5.jpg?v=1596990604","\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/G77M3_O.M.Tray-7.jpg?v=1596990604","\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/Q6BD_O.M.Tray-6.jpg?v=1596990604"],"featured_image":"\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/OOPK_bestOMtray.jpg?v=1596990603","options":["Title"],"media":[{"alt":null,"id":10618758529174,"position":1,"preview_image":{"aspect_ratio":1.0,"height":768,"width":768,"src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/OOPK_bestOMtray.jpg?v=1596990603"},"aspect_ratio":1.0,"height":768,"media_type":"image","src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/OOPK_bestOMtray.jpg?v=1596990603","width":768},{"alt":null,"id":10618758561942,"position":2,"preview_image":{"aspect_ratio":1.498,"height":1282,"width":1920,"src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/Z_O.M.Tray-3.jpg?v=1596990603"},"aspect_ratio":1.498,"height":1282,"media_type":"image","src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/Z_O.M.Tray-3.jpg?v=1596990603","width":1920},{"alt":null,"id":10618758594710,"position":3,"preview_image":{"aspect_ratio":1.498,"height":1282,"width":1920,"src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/IPHL_O.M.Tray-4.jpg?v=1596990603"},"aspect_ratio":1.498,"height":1282,"media_type":"image","src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/IPHL_O.M.Tray-4.jpg?v=1596990603","width":1920},{"alt":null,"id":10618758627478,"position":4,"preview_image":{"aspect_ratio":1.498,"height":1282,"width":1920,"src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/V2M_O.M.Tray-5.jpg?v=1596990603"},"aspect_ratio":1.498,"height":1282,"media_type":"image","src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/V2M_O.M.Tray-5.jpg?v=1596990603","width":1920},{"alt":null,"id":10618758660246,"position":5,"preview_image":{"aspect_ratio":1.542,"height":1280,"width":1974,"src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/G77M3_O.M.Tray-7.jpg?v=1596990603"},"aspect_ratio":1.542,"height":1280,"media_type":"image","src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/G77M3_O.M.Tray-7.jpg?v=1596990603","width":1974},{"alt":null,"id":10618758693014,"position":6,"preview_image":{"aspect_ratio":1.498,"height":1282,"width":1920,"src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/Q6BD_O.M.Tray-6.jpg?v=1596990603"},"aspect_ratio":1.498,"height":1282,"media_type":"image","src":"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0124\/1507\/4394\/products\/Q6BD_O.M.Tray-6.jpg?v=1596990603","width":1920}],"requires_selling_plan":false,"selling_plan_groups":[],"content":"\u003cp\u003eThis large and very decorative rectangular tray is in the aesthetic style with canted corners and bamboo borders. It has decorative entwined cane and serpent handles at each end and stands on four curved and curled spade feet. It has been ornamented with floral and foliate designs and about forty depictions of animals.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eAlmost the whole of the tray’s surface has been decorated in repousse and chased techniques with scenic vignettes to the sides interspersed with scrolling floral and foliate designs. To the outer edges of the base is a formal border of stiff alternating floral and foliate elements. A meander of plain silver separates this from the central ground containing the arching, signature kutch (cutch) scrolling floral and foliate designs and depictions of animals around a central vacant cartouche. The tray is marked to the underside ‘O.M’ and ‘Bhuj’.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMawji shows his supreme skill in this piece and the design is very complex on many different levels. There are elements of three different cultures, the Japanese inspired bamboo of the aesthetic style, the rich and wholly Indian ornamentation and the practical form of the English tea tray.  These diverse traditions have been skilfully blended together to emerge as a fourth beautiful and fully formed hybrid, with the tripartite ancestry still recognisable, but without any of the three elements appearing incongruous or having been overwhelmed.  Wilkinson comments that the bamboo border style was very popular in Bombay.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe rich ornamentation is almost three dimensional, applied in layer upon layer but there is also restraint. The incised surface appears to lie under the scrolls with the animals glimpsed almost casually out of the entwined foliage as if viewed through a break in the trees. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMawji loves to play with rhythm and contrasts and subtle changes occur throughout, formality changes to informality, rest to activity, plain to decorative, night to day, yet no element seems unnecessary, contrived or seems to jar.  His designs were extremely well planned on paper before the decoration started, so he never seems to get lost along the way but maintains a clear overall vision for the finished piece. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIt is not surprising that Oomersi Mawji was India’s most acclaimed silversmith and one of the most renowned silversmiths of his generation. In particular, his depictions of animals were highly prized, regarded as outstanding and seen as a mark of his mastery over the medium.  Some of his original workshop drawings still exist and these include many drawings similar to the depictions of the animals on this tray, they were all animals, wild and domesticated, that he would have encountered on many occasions, passing some every day.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eAlthough many of his animal pieces still exist in private collections and leading museums, we have been unable to identify any other item Mawji made which has so many and such a wide variety of animals. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIn this one single piece, he demonstrates almost the whole range of his repertoire; wild animals in their native habitats, singly and in groups, at rest and out hunting.  Man’s presence is indicated by the buildings and his direct interaction with the animal world shown by the mahouts sitting astride their elephants, the only human figures portrayed. We have counted thirty-five figures including hares, sheep, elephants, water buffalo, wild boar, deer, gazelles, lions, dogs, and a tiger, not forgetting the four additional entwined serpents coiled around the branches forming the handles.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe vignettes around the sides of the tray can be interpreted as scenes of relaxed domesticity; joy in a life lived, relaxing alone or shared with a partner or family.  The animals convey a profound sense of belonging, fulfilment, utter contentment and togetherness. They exhibit a harmonious co-existence with others ‘of the same kind’ and with the environment around them. These scenes could be envisaged as taking place in the cool of the evening or at night, the stillness is almost palpable.  There are no portrayals of people here but the buildings indicate their presence nearby and we are left to imagine their lives. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMawji uses posture and body language to suggest affection or contentment. Most of these vignettes show the animals making eye contact with each other, touching or within very close physical proximity of one and other. His animal figures are naturalistic, anatomically correct and skilfully drawn, yet he endows them with an emotional anthropomorphism, almost magically managing to convey a very human sense of emotion and connection without indulging in Victorian sentimentality.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe depictions to the base of the tray change the mood, it is daytime now and the stillness has disappeared, there is no tenderness or relaxation, the animals are alert and active. Is the stiff floral border to the edges merely a decorative device or a suggestion of cultivated fields leading down to the silver ribbon of a river with the jungle on the far side?  Within the plain border, the scenes focus on struggles for survival and supremacy, power, quarrels, aggression, nature in the raw.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eTwo mahouts on elephants are involved in an altercation, making threatening gestures at each other and their elephants have joined in the argument, one has wrapped his trunk around the other elephant’s front leg while this elephant has retaliated by wrapping his trunk around the other elephant’s mahout, trying to unseat him.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eAnother pair of competing elephants has been wrestling for dominance and control, one has just triumphed, the other is submissive. A lion with bared teeth has overpowered a gazelle, another, a deer.  The power and musculature of the lions drawn in sharp contrast to the grace and fragility of their victims. Two dogs are savaging a startled boar whilst another pair attack an antelope.  Mawji’s skilful depictions are like stills from a film, they speak to our imaginations, conveying a sense of past and future with the present. We understand what has just happened and also, what will happen next.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThere is no doubt that the figures have been arranged with great forethought, perhaps there are more profound messages that Mawji also wished to convey?  With his subtle mind, these could be philosophical observations; the swiftness with which death can strike, how life can bring a sudden reversal of fortune or how control of our destinies can be snatched away in an instant and without any prior warning. Given the prevailing political climate in India during the time he was working, another possible interpretation could be that those in charge can be toppled, that by working together as a group, those with less power can successfully challenge and bring down those who appear to be far more powerful. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThis is, of course, all pure conjecture and we shall probably never know whether Mawji’s true intention was anything other than to create a fabulous and beautiful tray which would give its owner pleasure every time it was seen or used and which would hold his attention for many years by occasionally revealing something he had never noticed or considered before.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e\u003cem\u003eProvenance:\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/strong\u003e        UK Private Collection\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e\u003cem\u003eSize:\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/strong\u003e                        Length: 48.5 cms (40 cms without handles), width: 28cms     \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e\u003cem\u003eReferences:-\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eChristie’s, Lot 280, Sale 3730, 20th May 2015, New York\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eVictoria \u0026amp; Albert Museum, London, (IS.163:2007) \u0026amp; (IS.164:1,2-2007)\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eVidya Dehejia, Delight in Design – Indian Silver for the Raj, Mapin Publishing, India 2008\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eWynyard R T Wilkinson, Indian Silver 1858-1947, Decorative Silver from the Indian Subcontinent and Burma, Made by Local Craftsmen in Western Forms,  W Wilkinson \u0026amp; Indar Pashrical Fine Arts, London 1997\u003c\/p\u003e"}

An Antique Indian Silver Footed Tray, Large Size, Oomersi Mawji, Bhuj, India – 1890

Product Description

This large and very decorative rectangular tray is in the aesthetic style with canted corners and bamboo borders. It has decorative entwined cane and serpent handles at each end and stands on four curved and curled spade feet. It has been ornamented with floral and foliate designs and about forty depictions of animals.

Almost the whole of the tray’s surface has been decorated in repousse and chased techniques with scenic vignettes to the sides interspersed with scrolling floral and foliate designs. To the outer edges of the base is a formal border of stiff alternating floral and foliate elements. A meander of plain silver separates this from the central ground containing the arching, signature kutch (cutch) scrolling floral and foliate designs and depictions of animals around a central vacant cartouche. The tray is marked to the underside ‘O.M’ and ‘Bhuj’.

Mawji shows his supreme skill in this piece and the design is very complex on many different levels. There are elements of three different cultures, the Japanese inspired bamboo of the aesthetic style, the rich and wholly Indian ornamentation and the practical form of the English tea tray.  These diverse traditions have been skilfully blended together to emerge as a fourth beautiful and fully formed hybrid, with the tripartite ancestry still recognisable, but without any of the three elements appearing incongruous or having been overwhelmed.  Wilkinson comments that the bamboo border style was very popular in Bombay.

The rich ornamentation is almost three dimensional, applied in layer upon layer but there is also restraint. The incised surface appears to lie under the scrolls with the animals glimpsed almost casually out of the entwined foliage as if viewed through a break in the trees. 

Mawji loves to play with rhythm and contrasts and subtle changes occur throughout, formality changes to informality, rest to activity, plain to decorative, night to day, yet no element seems unnecessary, contrived or seems to jar.  His designs were extremely well planned on paper before the decoration started, so he never seems to get lost along the way but maintains a clear overall vision for the finished piece. 

It is not surprising that Oomersi Mawji was India’s most acclaimed silversmith and one of the most renowned silversmiths of his generation. In particular, his depictions of animals were highly prized, regarded as outstanding and seen as a mark of his mastery over the medium.  Some of his original workshop drawings still exist and these include many drawings similar to the depictions of the animals on this tray, they were all animals, wild and domesticated, that he would have encountered on many occasions, passing some every day.

Although many of his animal pieces still exist in private collections and leading museums, we have been unable to identify any other item Mawji made which has so many and such a wide variety of animals. 

In this one single piece, he demonstrates almost the whole range of his repertoire; wild animals in their native habitats, singly and in groups, at rest and out hunting.  Man’s presence is indicated by the buildings and his direct interaction with the animal world shown by the mahouts sitting astride their elephants, the only human figures portrayed. We have counted thirty-five figures including hares, sheep, elephants, water buffalo, wild boar, deer, gazelles, lions, dogs, and a tiger, not forgetting the four additional entwined serpents coiled around the branches forming the handles.

The vignettes around the sides of the tray can be interpreted as scenes of relaxed domesticity; joy in a life lived, relaxing alone or shared with a partner or family.  The animals convey a profound sense of belonging, fulfilment, utter contentment and togetherness. They exhibit a harmonious co-existence with others ‘of the same kind’ and with the environment around them. These scenes could be envisaged as taking place in the cool of the evening or at night, the stillness is almost palpable.  There are no portrayals of people here but the buildings indicate their presence nearby and we are left to imagine their lives. 

Mawji uses posture and body language to suggest affection or contentment. Most of these vignettes show the animals making eye contact with each other, touching or within very close physical proximity of one and other. His animal figures are naturalistic, anatomically correct and skilfully drawn, yet he endows them with an emotional anthropomorphism, almost magically managing to convey a very human sense of emotion and connection without indulging in Victorian sentimentality.

The depictions to the base of the tray change the mood, it is daytime now and the stillness has disappeared, there is no tenderness or relaxation, the animals are alert and active. Is the stiff floral border to the edges merely a decorative device or a suggestion of cultivated fields leading down to the silver ribbon of a river with the jungle on the far side?  Within the plain border, the scenes focus on struggles for survival and supremacy, power, quarrels, aggression, nature in the raw.

Two mahouts on elephants are involved in an altercation, making threatening gestures at each other and their elephants have joined in the argument, one has wrapped his trunk around the other elephant’s front leg while this elephant has retaliated by wrapping his trunk around the other elephant’s mahout, trying to unseat him.

Another pair of competing elephants has been wrestling for dominance and control, one has just triumphed, the other is submissive. A lion with bared teeth has overpowered a gazelle, another, a deer.  The power and musculature of the lions drawn in sharp contrast to the grace and fragility of their victims. Two dogs are savaging a startled boar whilst another pair attack an antelope.  Mawji’s skilful depictions are like stills from a film, they speak to our imaginations, conveying a sense of past and future with the present. We understand what has just happened and also, what will happen next.

There is no doubt that the figures have been arranged with great forethought, perhaps there are more profound messages that Mawji also wished to convey?  With his subtle mind, these could be philosophical observations; the swiftness with which death can strike, how life can bring a sudden reversal of fortune or how control of our destinies can be snatched away in an instant and without any prior warning. Given the prevailing political climate in India during the time he was working, another possible interpretation could be that those in charge can be toppled, that by working together as a group, those with less power can successfully challenge and bring down those who appear to be far more powerful. 

This is, of course, all pure conjecture and we shall probably never know whether Mawji’s true intention was anything other than to create a fabulous and beautiful tray which would give its owner pleasure every time it was seen or used and which would hold his attention for many years by occasionally revealing something he had never noticed or considered before.

Provenance:        UK Private Collection

Size:                        Length: 48.5 cms (40 cms without handles), width: 28cms     

References:-

Christie’s, Lot 280, Sale 3730, 20th May 2015, New York

Victoria & Albert Museum, London, (IS.163:2007) & (IS.164:1,2-2007)

Vidya Dehejia, Delight in Design – Indian Silver for the Raj, Mapin Publishing, India 2008

Wynyard R T Wilkinson, Indian Silver 1858-1947, Decorative Silver from the Indian Subcontinent and Burma, Made by Local Craftsmen in Western Forms,  W Wilkinson & Indar Pashrical Fine Arts, London 1997

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