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Back scratcher part

Back scratcher part

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal empire (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Greenish grey nephrite jade, gilt metal. Fashioned by hand using abrasive-charged tools.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This element that once belonged to a back-scratcher was made within the Mughal empire, probably in the late 18th or early 19th century. It has been carved from a piece of nephrite jade in the form of a right hand. The detail, down to finger nails and rings, is reasonably well accomplished. It was acquired in India by William Tayler and sold by him to the museum in 1874.

Physical description

A part for a back-scratcher, carved in the form of a right hand in greenish grey nephrite jade. On the little finger, there is an attached gilt metal ring with a colourless stone in a once-reflective, closed-back setting that had originally been coloured deep green. However, the backing has since deteriorated and most of the colour has been lost. A longitudinal blind hole has been made in the wrist for attachment to a shaft.

Place of Origin

Mughal empire (made)

Materials and Techniques

Greenish grey nephrite jade, gilt metal. Fashioned by hand using abrasive-charged tools.


Length: 41.2 mm, Width: 31.25 mm, Depth: 20.3 mm, Depth: 9.3 mm

Object history note

This back-scratcher part was acquired by William Tayler during his time in India (1829-1867). He subsequently sold it to the South Kensington Museum (later renamed the Victoria & Albert Museum) in 1874 for the sum of 13 shillings.

William Tayler was educated in England at Charterhouse and also spent a term at Christ Church, Oxford. He entered service with the East India Company on 30th April 1829, arriving in India in October of the same year. He held various posts in Bengal and was appointed Commissioner of Patna in 1855. During his service, he was able to acquire many objects, including hardstones, relating to the customs and religions of India as well as objects from other parts of South Asia.
He was criticised for his handling of the uprisings in Northern India and was moved to a lesser post before being suspended, ultimately resigning on 29th March 1859. He then practised as an advocate in the law courts of Bengal before returning to England in 1867.
He wrote a book about his experiences, entitled Thirty-eight Years in India, in which he states that "After my return to England, circumstances induced me, though with great reluctance, to part with the collection which is now in the South Kensington Museum".

Descriptive line

A part for a back-scratcher , in the form of a hand, gilt metal ring on finger, greenish grey nephrite jade, India


Nephrite; Gilt metal


Gemstones; Hardstone; Personal accessories


South & South East Asia Collection

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