Silver Indian Box, Oomersi Mawji & Sons
A silver rectangular box carved in repoussé with hinged lid, two handles and standing on four scrolling feet. The box is decorated with lobed cartouches on each surface, featuring scenes of Vishnu's avatars. The lid presents the monkey god Hunuman and Vanara King Sugriva, paying respects to the gods Ram and Sita after the events of the epic Ramayana. The four sides of the box are decorated with various scenes including Vishnu on Sheshnag, Vishnu as Matsya (fish) slaying a demon, Krishna playing his flute among cows and Vishnu as Kurma (turtle) slaying a demon. The box is decorated throughout with scrolling floral motifs, geometric patterned borders with leaves and beading to the edges.
The underside of the box marked, “O.M. BHUJ”. The scrolling floral motifs and four scrolled feet on this box come from the Kutch style of work whilst the mythological scenes on the lid and sides of the box derive from the Madras Swami style by Oomersi Majji & Sons. Oomersi Mawji was the court silversmith to the ruler of Kutch, Maharao Shri Mirza Raja Sawai Khengarji Bahadur. Kutch was a major centre for the production of silverwares in the 19th century, and supplied a huge domestic and foreign market.
Traditionally, Kutch silver was decorated from the outside, after the piece had been made to the required shape and filled with a mixture of black wax and resin. This mixture absorbed the shock of the hammers and punches used to form the patterns, and was easily removed by heating till melted when the design was finished. The outside was then cleaned, and the decorative details burnished.
For similar examples of Kutch and Swami work see: Vidya Dehejia, Delight in Silver - Indian Silver for the Raj' Exhibition Catalogue, New York, 2008, and Wynyard R.T. Wilkinson, Indian Silver 1858-1947, London, Wynyard R T Wilkison, 1999.