A Pair of Pambadam Ear Ornaments South India, Tamil Nadu, circa 1900 Metal alloy 2 3/4 in. (7 cm.) wide
Traditionally, these ear ornaments would have been worn as a sign of prestige and respectability amongst South Indian communities. Both men and women would start stretching their earlobes at a young age, as the length of earlobes was indicative of high caste. They simultaneously represent the three worlds (Triloka) of Hindu belief: the physical (earthly) world, the astral plane, and the spiritual universe of the gods.
Makara Bangle (Makaranathi) India Dated 1869 Gold and rubies
Makara Bangle (Makaranathi) India, dated 1869 Gold and rubies Length: 8 ¼ in. (20.9 cm.)
Provenance: From the estate of Mary Jane Lampton Peabody (1921-2015).
This stunning bracelet features elegant repoussé details of foliate designs and two makara heads with ruby eyes. The makaras meet face-to-face at a round sphere that holds the screw fastening mechanism, also adorned with a ruby. In Hindu mythology, a makara is a legendary sea creature similar to a crocodile. The inside rim is inscribed “Eugénie” with crown and the year 1869. Such bangles were worn and bestowed by rajas and princes in south India during the nineteenth century. Compare the present piece with a similar nineteenth-century gold bangle in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (inv. no. 03291(IS)).
It is likely that this bangle belonged to Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III and the last French empress. She was at the forefront of contemporary fashion and enjoyed wearing jewelry, adorning herself with surviving pieces of the crown jewels as well as new pieces commissioned during her reign. Eugénie was also known to have a love for India—as a young girl, she even attempted to run away to India, going as far as climbing aboard a ship at Bristol docks. Whether this gift was inspired by her youthful eccentricities, or simply French colonial interests in India, we cannot know.
After France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war and the overthrow of the Second Empire in 1871, the empress and her husband fled to England. In a noble gesture, she left the jewels that were paid for by the state behind, but kept some of her personal favorites. Likely pressed for funds, Eugénie sold a number of pieces from her collection at Christie’s London the following year. Additionally, in 1887, the Third Republic sold the French crown jewels at auction, dispersing the pieces they labeled as frivolous. Today, some are on display at the Louvre and others appear occasionally at auctions, although many were sold privately or have never been recovered.
A Ram’s Head Shamshir Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh 19th Century
A Ram’s Head Shamshir Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, 19th Century 41 in. (104 cm.) long
The shamshir’s name comes from the radical curve of its blade, translating to ‘lion’s claw’ or ‘lion’s tail.’ The blade itself is forged from wootz steel–the carbon deposits within the iron ingots forming intricate wave-like patterns known as ‘damascus.’ A modern scabbard of tooled black leather, attached with shell-shaped brackets for suspension, accompanies the sword.
The present shamshir is a beautiful example of the famed silver metalware produced in Lucknow during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The diamond-shaped quillion is made from engraved silver with fine blue and green champleve and basse-taille enamelling particularly characteristic of Lucknow. In the center is a Hyderabadi poppy in aquamarine blue–a distinctive motif in the Lucknow vocabulary which demonstrates the fusion of Deccani opulence and Mughal naturalism. (see Mark Zebrowski, Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, 1997, p. 87, pl. 74.)
Perched above is a bird in blue and cherry red, its head bowed and wings spread wide. A spiral of bristling green leaves encircles the scene, and is flanked by two birds in flight. On the border appears a quatrefoil floral pattern on a blue ground, another characteristic motif of nawabi enamel. The quillon’s tapered ends mirror the splendid offset pommel, which is formed into a ram’s head. The fine etchings in the ram’s fur and curling horns shine through the vibrant blue and orange enamel, contrasting the animal’s brilliant silver smile. The grip–extending as if the curving neck of the ram–is made of translucent rock crystal, secured to the tang with small pins.
Compare the present example to another fine ram’s head shamshir from Lucknow currently housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (acc. 36.25.1302a, b). The scabbard exhibits similar enameled metal work motifs such as the Hyderabad poppy, the scrolling green foliage, and the quatrefoil floral border.
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Asia Week NY 2020
2020 EXHIBITIONS & OPEN HOUSE
MARCH 12-21 God/Goddess
Open House Weekend: March 14-15 Saturday and Sunday, 11am-5pm, By Appointment Only
Hours Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm (By Appointment Only)
Opening Party Thursday, March 12, 6-8pm, By Appointment Only
GALLERY TALK by Laura Weinstein: A Brief Introduction to Indian and Himalayan Art Tuesday, March 17, 10:30am Canceled.