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  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Calcutta (made)

  • Date:

    1860s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hamilton & Co. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Blackened zinc alloy overlaid with silver (bidri)

  • Museum number:

    2510:1 to 3/(IS)

  • Gallery location:

    On display in the Scottish Design Galleries, V&A Dundee []

This object was purchased by the India Museum at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 and transferred to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) in 1879. Hamilton & Co., which manufactured it in Calcutta, was founded in Edinburgh in 1808 and traded continuously until 30 June 1970. The huqqa, or ‘hubble bubble’ (smoking pipe), is a fine example of bidri ware, which is made by casting zinc alloyed with small amounts of lead, copper or tin. This forms a base for designs inlaid in silver. The name relates to Bidar, the city in central India most widely associated with the technique, which is unique to India.

The base and stand of this example are inlaid with a silver flower motif and silver mounts. The stem screws into the top of the base and is a hybrid of Indian and high Victorian taste, with naturalistic lotus flowers twining round the central stem. The tobacco bowl and cover are made of separately cast pieces decorated with a lotus pattern in low relief.

Physical description

Huqqa with Indian metal design (bidri) work base and stand, with applied silver flowers around base. Stem, 'chilam' and 'sarpush' in silver, in the form of a flower stem, with naturalistic lotus flowers and leaves twined around it.

Place of Origin

Calcutta (made)


1860s (made)


Hamilton & Co. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Blackened zinc alloy overlaid with silver (bidri)

Marks and inscriptions

Pseudo-assay marks of an elephant and 'P' in Bengali script on the cover of the 'chilim' (tobacco bowl).


Height: 85 cm, Diameter: 50 cm maximum

Object history note

This flamboyant water pipe was almost certainly made for the 1867 Paris exhibition. It is a hybrid of Indian and high Victorian taste.

Historical context note

A few Europeans smoked huqqas as late as the 1860s although it was becoming less socially acceptable in English circles.

Descriptive line

Huqqa of silver and silver inlaid bidri work, with stem entwined with lotus flowers, Hamilton & Co., Calcutta, 1860s.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p.217, pl.192
Guy, John and Swallow, Deborah (eds.) Arts of India: 1550-1900. Text by Rosemary Crill, John Guy, Veronica Murphy, Susan Stronge and Deborah Swallow. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1990, reprinted 1999. 240 p. : ill. ISBN: 1851770224.
pps. 252-253
Jackson, Anna and Ji Wei (eds.) with Rosemary Crill, Ainsley M. Cameron and Nicholas Barnard, compiled by the Palace Museum, translated by Yuan Hong, Qi Yue and Liu Ran. The Splendour of India' Royal Courts : Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Beijing: the Forbidden City Publishing House, 2013. Text in English and Chinese. ISBN 9787513403917.

Stronge, Susan, Bidri ware inlaid metalwork from India, London: Victoria and Albert Museum 1985, no.65, pp.78-80.
ISBN 0 905209 63 X
Arts of Bengal : the heritage of Bangladesh and eastern India : an exhibition organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum : 9 November-30 December 1979, Whitechapel Art Gallery ..., 12 January-17 February 1980, Manchester City Art Gallery ... . [London]: Whitechapel Art Gallery, [1979] Number: 085488047X (pbk.) :

Production Note

Letter 'P' in Bengali script close to the pseudo-assay marks denotes the name of the craftsman.


Alloy; Silver




Entertainment & Leisure; Metalwork; India Museum


South & South East Asia Collection

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