Oomersi Mawji, Rare Colonial Parcel-Gilt Large Repousse Silver Lidded Sugar Bowl Attributed to Oomersi Mawji, Kutch, Gujarat, India, Circa mid 19th Century.

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Oomersi Mawji, Rare Colonial Parcel-Gilt Large Repousse Silver Lidded Sugar Bowl Attributed to Oomersi Mawji, Kutch, Gujarat, India, Circa mid 19th Century.

Oomersi Mawji started his work as a fine leather engraver and his work was decorating fine leather shields and armour plates. As wars between the British and Indians came to an effective end with the signing of a peace treaty in 1858, and companies like the East India Company could provide protection to their areas of interest, such as Kutch, Oomersi Mawji, like many of the Mochis who were mostly cobblers at the time, changed his profession to a more civil related profession. Oomersi Mawji became a fine silversmith.
Oomersi Mawji, accompanied by his sons, raised the quality of their work and decoration in silversmithing until the rulers of Kutch (Maharaos) appreciated and generously supported their talent.
Oomersi Mawji’s work was more associated with colonial-influenced Indian works of art with a European taste, but the decoration is purely of Indian style where he usually used floral designs and wild animals in their natural habitat including hunting scenes, etc.
This Colonial-based shape with Mughal-influenced decoration repoussé silver bowl and cover has been beautifully produced from parcel-gilt solid silver and decorated with floral scroll covering the majority of the stemmed bowl in a style similar to work by Oomersi Mawji. The background has been matted and the lid has a decorated acorn shaped finial. The lid of the cup has a band punctuated with chased flowers and acanthus leaves that lead up to the finial with pattern repeated on the stemmed round base.
This piece is probably one of the earliest examples of Oomersi Mawji’s work, for it has his style of decorating armour shields before he changed his profession to silversmithing. It is worth mentioning that not all of his early work was marked, and this piece could well be an example of that. The decoration on the rim of the base and the finial, the technique, design, style of filling empty spaces and the very high quality of this piece is characteristic of his work. Although the bowl has typical Kutch-style decoration, the form and shape is typically colonial with the Lion heads handles showing strong European Regency style and European neo-classical influence. This design of Ring handles clasped firmly in the mouth of a lion’s head was also used in European architectural and other works of art in the French Empire style from around 1760. It is worth mentioning that the lion in the Indian mythology is always associated with royalty, power and high status. This piece was most likely made for an Indian royalty or a European dignitary as explained in reference number 1 below.

1- For another close shape to our lot, please see the colonial Indian sugar lidded bowl that was made in an elegant Regency-style design in Calcutta by one of Calcutta’s resident British silversmiths, David Hare around (1800 – 1815), probably slightly earlier than when our lot was made. Our piece is also decorated with ring handles, clasped firmly in the mouth of a lion’s head. Please see, Arts of India 1550-1900, The Nehru Gallery of Indian Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, Guy & Swallow, Lot 181 page 205-206, museum no. (IS) 24-1986.
2- For more free and spacious decoration of Islamic influenced floral and vegetational design, please see the early work of Oomersi Mawji on Rhinoceros-skin shield, lot no. 112, p.81.
3- For other similar free designs, please see the Silver jug made by the artist on lot 114a, p.82, Indian Silver 1858 -1947, Silver from the Indian sub-continent and Burma during 90 years of British Rule, by Wynyard R. D. Wilkinson.
4- For similar style and technique, please see Delight and Design, Indian Silver for the Raj, by Vidya D Ehejia, lot 45 is very similar to our piece, and also lots 39 & 42, p. 126-147

Condition: Excellent and intact. The gilt to the inside is intact but shows wear to the outside with little remaining. The lid fits tightly and the cup sits straight and upright.

Condition: Excellent and intact.
Dimensions: 27cm High.
11.5 cm diameter base.
  • Identification Number: 180

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