A Small Portable Gilt & Enamelled Silver Water-Pipe (Huqqah) Base, Upper Pradesh, Lucknow-India, 18th. Century.

Identification Number: 573


This rare example of enamelled and silver-gilt portable smoking water-pipe or huqqah base is been finely engraved with typical Mughal dynasty floral designs with various playful exotic birds and solely enamelled with a combination of only two enameling techniques comprising opaque ultramarine blue and translucent (champlevé) light green colour enamelling.


This conjunction of variegated colours is characteristic of the earlier crafts of the city of Lucknow, dating back to the mid-eighteenth century.

During the 18th. and 19th. Centuries, the Nawabi capital at Lucknow, was the richest court of India.

Lucknow was markedly formed and influenced by different cultures, and had something that becomes particularly evident in this piece, that shows the influence of Persian, Ottoman and other European Christian Art centres i.e. Armenian Art for the cross like borders patterns which are used to divide the various decorated sections are typical of Christian Armenian Art also incorporating other enameling techniques, forms, designs and crafts from other parts of India practically seen in Deccani art.

Each of the cartouches is contained within borders displaying a characteristic motif of the nawabi enamel, a cross-pattern filled with ultramarine blue.

The decoration of the huqqa base features dancing and flying birds amidst scrolling floral motifs including bold lotus and iris blossoms, which is a programme seen throughout Mughal manuscripts and in Persian pieces, reminiscent of the Gol-o-Bulbul (nightingale and flower).

This item is particularly rare, and the decoration is matched by a series of pieces preserved in museums and collections that help to date it with security to the second half of the 18th century.


The height is 18 cm
The width at widest point of body 8.5 cm.
3.5 cm. diam. of top, 6.2-cm. diam. of base.


Good, some loss of gilt and minor loss of enamel, minor dent, no added re-enamelling nor repair.


The European Art Market.


For almost identical item but with deferent enamelled decoration, please visit
Christie’s Auction house in London, auction date was on the 7th. of April 2011, Sale No. 7959, ARTS OF THE ISLAMIC & INDIAN WORLDS, Please see sold lot identification No.249.

For other related luxurious enamelled silver works of art from Lucknow please see the following:

- For other Lucknow enamelled silver objects, please see, India’s Fabled City, The Art of Courtly LUCKNOW, Lacma, By Stephen Markel With Tushara Bindu Gude, the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art, DelMonico Books, 2010, ISBN 978-3-7913-5075-2, Pages 198-225.

- Mark Zebrowski Gold, Silver and Bronze from Mughal India, Alexandria Press in association with Laurence King, 1977, ISBN: 1-85669-115-2, for related works please see pages 80-90.

For very similar technique using yellow, ultramarine, blue, red and green enamel please see:
- LACMA Serving Box for Betel Leaf Quids c 1780, Accession No AC1993.137.1.1-.2).

- Kuwait National Museum, collection al-Sabah, Sword from Lucknow, 18th century. Accession number (N/A)

- Sotheby’s London, Art Of Imperial India, 8 OCTOBER 2014, Lot 234: A rare enamelled pandan box, Lucknow, circa 1780.

For very similar technique of enamel and borders featuring the cross-shaped pattern see:
- LACMA Water-pipe Base, Accession No. M.2005.95.

- Christie’s London, Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds Including Oriental Rugs and Carpets, 26 October 2017 Lot 148: A Silver-Gilt Enamelled Vase from Lucknow, India, Late 18th/Early 19th Century.

- Christie’s South Kensington, Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, 11 October 2013 Lot 527: A Silver Enamelled Openwork Piece From A Water Pipe.

- Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber, Eds. History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000. New York: Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture; New Haven; London; Yale University Press, 2013.

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