Permanent Collection: Other

Silver and Agate Hinged Box, Kashmir, Circa 1880 - 1890

This hinged silver box is a fine example of late C19th Kashmiri silverwork.  The most notable feature of the box is its lid; a sheet of rust red and creamy white agate, beautifully polished, bevelled at the edges and translucent when held to the light.  The box carries no clasp or fastner, the lid being secured solely via two hinges, fitting snugly into place, and opening and closing easily.  The body of the box is of simple and straightforward construction.

Decoratively, Kashmiri silversmiths drew freely on the natural world around them, and this piece is no exception.  All sides of the box are decorated in the ‘rosette’ or coriander leaf style common in chased and repoussed Kashmiri silverwork.  Again, all sides carry a tree of life motif bearing a range of flowers and leaves which fill all the available space on each panel.  Overall, a number of flower designs are present, some of which may be of the poppy in addition to the various representations of coriander blossoms.

Kashmiri silverwork was an important element of Indian ‘Raj’ silver, which developed in a number of regional styles from the later C19th to serve the colonial and home British and European markets, and was perhaps second only to Cutch silver in its popularity.  The Kashmir trade was dominated by merchant middlemen, the silversmiths working with only the simplest of tools and rarely meeting their clients.  These merchants took great care to promote their offerings, and Kashmiri silverware featured frequently in European as well as sub-continental exhibitions.

The piece probably dates 1880 – 1890.  Another example of Kashmiri silverwork can be seen elsewhere in our collection (GNC10).

References and sources:
Dehejia, V. and others, Delight in Design - Indian Silver for the Raj, (Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing, 2008; Ocean Township, NJ: Granta Publishing, 2008).
Wilkinson, W. R. T., Indian Silver 1858 - 1947, (London: Wynyard R. T. Wilkinson, 1999).

Provenance: The UK art market
Catalogue number: GNC14