Indian Art, The Gandaberunda, An Extremely Important and Rare Ceremonial Polychromed and Lacquered Carved Ivory and Wood Double-Headed Eagle (Gandaberunda), Mysor, India 16th-17th Century.

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Indian Art, The Gandaberunda, An Extremely Important and Rare Ceremonial Polychromed and Lacquered Carved Ivory and Wood Double-Headed Eagle (Gandaberunda), Mysor, India 16th-17th Century.

The double-headed Eagle is a mythical creature that has been used in ancient civilisations and continued until the present day.
The concept of two-headed bird existed among Sumerians, Egyptians and Hittites, as well as Hindus. In Egypt and Assyria it was associated with a fertility cult.
There are striking similarities between the Indian and Sumerian civilizations. One of them is the use of the Double-Headed Eagle as a royal symbol. From 3800 BC until today this mythical bird is used as a symbol of royalty. Sumerians considered this bird the symbol of God Ninurta of Lagash. They thought it had divine power. A cylindrical seal shows the double-headed eagle from 3800 BC. Later, the Hittite Empire, which had its capital in Bogazkoy (in Modern Turkey), used the mythical bird in several monuments. Even today we can see the monuments displaying this symbol in huge sculptures in Hattusa and Yazilikaya. Bogazkoy was the place where a tablet with the names of the Vedic Gods: Indra, Mitra, Nasatya and Varuna were discovered. The tablet was dated 1380 BC. This establishes the Indian connection of the region.

In Sanskrit literature – the Panchatantra (book of fables) has a story about Ganda Berunda bird. It says that the bird had two heads but one stomach.
In Karnataka, the Gandabherunda in Balligavi, is the oldest (1047 C.E), the mythical creature is Installed on a tall stone pillar, this figure has human form and two heads of a large mythical bird with sharp beak. This bird also appears in many temples built in the middle ages.

During the Hoysala rule in the 13th century CE, Gandabherunda appeared on coinage as well. Vijayanagara King Achyutadevaraya’s (1530-42 CE) had gold & copper coins carry this symbol.
The Ayuthya kingdom of Thailand also carries this sort of emblem. Some historians had considered this mysterious emblem is clue to world history.
The double-headed eagle is also commonly associated with the Byzantine Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire established by Merivingian kings. In Byzantine heraldry, the heads represent the dual sovereignty of the Emperor (secular and religious) and/or dominance of the Byzantine Emperors over both the East and West. Other civilisations that used the double-headed eagle were in Spain, Spanish colonies, Dutch colonies and Armenia.
Russia and other Eastern European countries use it on their currency notes and national flags. Eastern European country Albania has this bird in its national flag. Several countries issued stamps and coins as well.
In the 16th century, the Portuguese voyages to Asia resulted in the encounter of distinctive cultures, religions and ways of life, leading to a process of mutual exchange of products, materials and techniques. Fascinated by the first exotic rarities and artworks brought by the Portuguese from India, the Europeans developed a taste for Asian artefacts, thus creating a market that encouraged subsequent local production.
The Indo-Portuguese textiles and furniture particularly in Goa, purchased by Portuguese settlers, merchants, officials or noblemen, reflects the impact of European culture in indigenous craftsmanship during Portuguese expansion. Furniture typologies followed European prototypes, but their construction originated in different production centres of the Indian subcontinent or Ceylon, nowadays known as Sri Lanka.
The Portuguese commissioned enormous quantities of rarities. Typical items were chests, cabinets, travelling trunks, writing boxes, trays, and coffers – small and portable objects to serve Portuguese officials, traders and noblemen. The many religious orders and missionaries also purchased portable altars, oratories, lecterns or other fittings for Christian churches built in the Portuguese territories.
The double-headed eagle, some call it as the valture of Goa, had also been used in the ornamentation and decoration of the indo-Portuguese furniture, artefacts and textiles, and was depicted in different forms and shapes, some of which very similar to our present lot, but with minor alterations and additions like, a pair of crowns on top of each bird’s head or one large crown placed amidst the bird’s two heads.
Our current lot has an empty crescent shape between the bird’s two heads, it may well be a missing crown. And if that was the case then our lot can be attributed to Goa or any other Portuguese center in India or Ceylon.
But as it is, how it was found and appear, we can undoubtedly attribute it to Karnataka-Maysor.

Some studies focussed on a peculiar group of Indo-Portuguese furniture consisting of items of different typologies, which have in common a refining coating of oriental lacquer, a material that did not originate in India. Characterized by different styles of lacquer decoration, this group combines varied influences, namely Indian, Singhalese, Chinese, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Japanese, Burmese, Thai and European.

The mystical bird of Gandabherunda is featured in the emblem of the state of Karnataka in India. The compound name is made of ganda, the mighty, and bherunda meaning "two headed".
Today, Gandabherunda occupies pride of place as Karnataka State emblem, carrying 4,000 years of history on its wings! Historians mentioned that the Gandaberunda was first used as a sign on coins in Vijayanagar mints, which still exist. Since then, the tradition passed on to generations.

Our present lot shows a very interesting and elegant polychromed, gilded and lacquered double headed bird decorated on both the front and rear sides. This can be viewed as a possible clue to its original intended use which could have been the focal point of a larger processional piece or as a part of a bigger coat of arms or furniture.

The particular form of the head in our lot has possibly originated from Dacceni, South India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). This particular shape of head is thought to have been derived from another mythical bird, called Hamsa, where the head resembles a duck, with its distinctive beak.

For similar related Indo-Portuguese examples, please see Portugal and the East Through Embroidery, 16th- 18th Century coverlets from the Museu Nacional De Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Organised and Circulated by the International Exhibitions Foundation, Washington, D.C., lot 12, p.24-25 and lot 15 p.29.

Condition: very good, loses, chip to ivory flower arrangement hanging from the right bird’s beak, and chips to lacquer were at the backside of the bird, a steel rod is attached to the birds body for connection proposes to other parts

Height of the ivory bird 42 cm
Width of the bird two heads section 21 cm
  • Identification Number: 88

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