Mughal Bowl and Plate
This delicately ornamented bowl and plate are exquisite examples of Mughal glass craftsmanship. The bowl of circular shape gently flares towards the rim. The body is gilded to luminous effect with poppy flowers in full bloom, enveloped by scrolling garlands with delicate leaves, interspersed with smaller flower heads. Fine details outlining the petals appear etched into the gilt, while two gold bands encompassing chevron motifs, one around the rim, the other corresponding to the diameter of the base, enhance the vertiginous aesthetic. The body narrows to a kicked-in base with the addition of a rounded foot. The base is embellished inside with a flower. The plate is decorated internally with two contrasting floral designs. The principal band echoes the motifs on the bowl, with poppy blooms set within foliated tendrils. The centre of the plate is decorated with six poppies, whose stems intersect to form a cartouche, encasing a floral motif upon which the bowl sits. Akin to the bowl, gold bands distinguish the two areas of decoration.
The earliest reference to glassmaking during the Mughal period appears in Abul al-Fazl’s A’in-i Akbarki (1596-97), in which glass made in Bihar and near Agra is mentioned. Glass vessels from Iran and Europe also reached India during this time, which led to a flourish of glass production. Workshops created free-blown, (as with the present example) and mold-blown glass as well as some wheel cut pieces. Decorative motifs echoed those appearing in paintings, objects, carpets and architecture of the period. Contemporaneous artworks depicting the Mughal courts reveal glass cups and saucers in use by the emperors and members of the aristocracy, as well as being prominently displayed, attesting to their status as highly valued objects.
The present bowl and plate would no doubt have been considered in this manner. As the sinuous blooms and tendrils inhabit the contours of the vessels they denote an organic lyricism and poetic sentiment, which could only have been achieved by a truly masterful artist.
For examples of Mughal glass with similar decorative schemes, see Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Accession Number C.141-1936., and the Los Angeles County Museum, Accession Number M.84.124.2a-c.
Literature: Carboni, S. Glass of the Sultans. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001.
Digby, S. ‘A Corpus of ‘Mughal' Glass’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 36, No. 1, 1973, pp. 80-96.
Dikshit, M. G. History of Indian Glass, University of Bombay, 1969.
Liefkes, R. (ed). Glass. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1997.
Markel, S. ‘Indian and "Indianate" Glass Vessels in the Los Angeles County Museum’, Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 33, 1991, pp. 82-92.
Stronge, S. The Indian Heritage. Court Life and Arts Under Mughal Rule. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1982.