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Indian

Peacock barge inkstand 1870-76

Gold, enamel, rubies, sapphires, diamonds, silver, pearls and textile | 17.5 x 39.3 x 5.7 cm (whole object) | RCIN 11444

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  • An enamelled gold and jewel encrusted inkstand in the form of a barge with oars, an anchor, flagpole and mast. The prow of the model represents a peacock with a spread tail, enamelled with incised blue and green detail inlaid with sapphires and diamonds. The stern is in the form of the head of a makara, a dragon-like mythological creature associated with Hindu iconography. The canopied section near the peacock formed of silk embroidered with pearls, glass beads and silver wire suspended above four rods and a lotus-shaped seat, or palki. The second canopied section, or chattri, made of gold and enamelled with floral designs in green, orange, red and blue and inlaid with diamonds. The canopy is fringed with textile decorated with coloured threads, seed pearls and tinsel. The deck of the ship is enamelled with birds and flowers and can be lifted to reveal two inkwells, a pair of scissors, a penknife and two pen nibs. The mast engraved with a dedication to the Prince of Wales and the flag decorated with two fish to represent the Benares coat of arms.

    Enamelling had been introduced to the Indian subcontinent by European craftsman based in Portuguese Goa during the late sixteenth century. By the late nineteenth century, enamel production had been established in several centres in north India, each developing its own style and colour palette. Although Benares also specialised in enamelling, this inkstand was made in Jaipur.

    Provenance

    Presented to King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, during his tour of India in 1875-76 by Ishwari Prasad Narayan Singh, Maharaja of Benares. The Prince of Wales visited Benares on 5 January 1876. After a day of visiting Hindu temples, the Prince travelled on a state barge, similar to this model, to meet the Maharaja of Benares at his palace Ramnagar which overlooks the River Ganges. This inkstand was presented as a memento of this visit.

    When the Prince of Wales returned from his tour of India, he arranged for his gifts from India to be exhibited in ten locations across Britain, and Europe from 1876-83. The gifts were exhibited at the Paris International Exhibition (1878) where the inkstand, as well as the many other enamelled gold gifts that the Prince received in India, was praised for its exquisite design and workmanship. George Birdwood, curator of the India Museum at South Kensington and of the exhibition of the Prince's Indian gifts in Paris, remarked that 'even Paris cannot paint gold with the ruby and coral reds, emerald green, and turquoise and sapphire blues of the enamels of Jaipur, Lahore, Benares and Lucknow'.

  • Medium and techniques

    Gold, enamel, rubies, sapphires, diamonds, silver, pearls and textile

    Measurements

    17.5 x 39.3 x 5.7 cm (whole object)