Decorative Arts

Surahi, the vessel with high neck

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Surahi, the vessel with high neck
18th century

Place of Origin: Mughal
Materials: Jade, gold wire and leaf, glass and ruby
Technique: Carved and inlayed
Dimensions: W: 18 Ht: 19 cm.
Acc. no: 61. 503

Pot, pitcher, or surahi - a pot with a globular body and high neck, and sometimes a spout, are various shapes of vessels used for containing water though while pots or pitchers have been in use for storing water surahi, a medieval fashion of wares, was used for serving it, often in out-camps, gardens or garden-pavilions, personal chambers or common sitting halls but sometimes also on the dining table or 'dastarkhan'. Surahis were used also for keeping and serving wines and other drinks. For such distinctive use unlike a pot or pitcher made of clay, or brass or copper like routine metals a surahi, as is seen in 17th-18th century Persian and Indian miniature paintings, was often a vessel of elite and royalty made sometimes also from precious metals like gold and silver and jade like semi-precious stones.

This is an excellent example of jade surahi decorated with gold leaf and wire and rubies. The entire vessel has been fabricated by joining variously sized and shaped jade pieces, those fabricating the globular belly or storage part being diamond-shaped, while those for the neck, rectangular. Gold-wire has been used for joining different pieces, and gold-leaves, for aesthetically manipulating the joints. The gold leaves have been arranged flowers' like with six, five, four or three leaves contained within gold-wire frame and mounted with glass. The neck composed of small rectangular jade pieces has been adorned using same composition: the gold-leaf, framing gold-wire and mounting glass, though here the flower-form has been replaced by rows of diamond design, six in each vertical row. A ring of precious red stones, perhaps rubies, the artefact's crowning beauty, adorns the neck's lower part adding luster virtually to the entire piece. Small round opening, towering neck and large bulbous base beautifully embellished with precious stones and gold this surahi, a mere utility article, is an outstanding example of how art dominated even the day-today life in the 18th century Mughal India.

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