Workshop of Oomersee Mawjee
Teapot, c. 1900 AD
Silver and ivory
15 (height) x 7.5 (diameter at base) cm
Bhuj, India

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Part of a tea set including a sugar bowl and milk jug, this silver teapot is covered in rich decorative motifs of intertwined plant and animal forms. A large tusked elephant head with a raised trunk forms the spout of the vessel, while a small elephant tops the hinged lid of the teapot. The silver handle, kept cool by two ivory heat breakers, takes the form of a snake coiled around a curved tree branch. The depictions of animals in combat among densely scrolling foliage covering the body of the vessel are a trademark of the workshop of the court metalsmith Oomersee Mawjee. Mawjee worked for the Maharaja of Kutch and his internationally known designs come out of the rich Kutch tradition of silversmiths renowned for incorporating playful humor and animals into their Islamic-inspired scrolling designs. Though this luxury object’s elaborate appearance may suggest a merely ornamental function, the tea-stained interior provides evidences of frequent use. The importance of tea, in recent centuries, in Indian culture, and the social history and politics of this global commodity add an additional layer of complexity to the meaning of this fine object.

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