Description & Technical information

This rare and exquisite pouring vessel is made of a large polished shell from a fruit called a lodoicea (also known as a “sea coconut” or “coco de mer”), which is endemic to the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in the Seychelles. The craftsmen have cleverly cut the fruit in half to form the container’s body and then decorated the shell with silver mounts. The silver hinged handle, above the new lid, is in the shape of a curved cobra with intricate carving on its back, neck and front. Beneath the snake, there is a bull’s head with a pierced mouth functioning as a spout which is covered by a chained stopper. The silver-footed base is of oval form and is ornamented with foliage on a punched background.
The design of this container is based on leather prototypes called gomukhi (“cow face bags”) used in India by Hindu mendicants (“beggars”) or sadhus (“holy men”) for carrying sacred water from the Ganges. Thus, the leafy fronds on this pouring vessel symbolise the new life that springs from the waters, while the lodoicea, a source of milk, oil and food, has further meaning, for it would have been regarded as an auspicious fruit fit to be offered to deities.
There is a similar pouring vessel held in a private collection which was published by Christiane Terlinden in 1987.1 A similar silver-mounted coco de mer vessel was offered in our 2017 catalogue.

Period:  late 19th century
Origin:  Kutch, India
Medium: Silver-Mounted
Dimensions: 26.5 x 37 cm (10³/₈ x 14⁵/₈ inches)
Literature: Footnotes:
1. Christiane Terlinden. 1987. Mughal Silver Magnificence. Brussels: Antalga. p.170, fig.261. 

Categories: Oriental and Asian Art, Silver