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Chauri (flywhisk) handle

Chauri (flywhisk) handle

  • Place of origin:

    Delhi (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1800 to 1868 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    White nephrite jade, green nephrite jade, ferrous metal, fashioned using a variety of techniques, employing abrasives, abrasive-charged tools and the use of bow-driven lathes and drills.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This 19th century fly-whisk handle was made in northern India before 1868. It has been expertly fashioned using two different colours of nephrite jade and would originally have held a yak's tail. The shaft is made of alternating white and green jade on a central ferrous metal rod, each section well matched for diameter to produce a smooth and even appearance.
The flywhisk handle was previously owned by the notable collector of Mughal and other jade and rock crystal objects, Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie who sold it with other objects from his collection to the Indian Museum in Leadenhall Street, London, in 1868. They were all transferred to the South Kensington Museum, later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum, in 1879.

Physical description

A chauri (fly whisk) handle fashioned in multiple sections of white and green nephrite jade around a ferrous metal rod core.
The cup and supporting shoulder have been fashioned in one piece in white nephrite jade and so have the bead terminal and its stem. In between these two ends, the shaft has been constructed from alternating longer tubular sections of white nephrite jade (seven in total) and short ring sections of green nephrite jade (eight in total), all being mounted on a length of ferrous metal rod that protrudes from the cup which also contains a beige-coloured filler with black veining.

Place of Origin

Delhi (possibly, made)


1800 to 1868 (made)

Materials and Techniques

White nephrite jade, green nephrite jade, ferrous metal, fashioned using a variety of techniques, employing abrasives, abrasive-charged tools and the use of bow-driven lathes and drills.


Length: 119.7 mm, Diameter: 27.2 to 27.5 mm, Length: 36.7 mm, Diameter: 10.8 to 11.0 mm, Length: 16.4 mm, Length: 14.5 to 19.0 mm, Length: 3.0 to 3.5 mm

Object history note

This fly-whisk handle was originally in the Guthrie collection and was purchased together with a second [object number 02597(IS)] for the sum of £6-0-0, when he sold 81 of his objects to The India Museum in 1868. It was subsequently transferred to The South Kensington Museum (later renamed The Victoria & Albert Museum) in 1879.

Charles Seton Guthrie was an important collector of eastern coins and Mughal Empire jade and rock crystal objects. He was the second son of Scottish parents, both of whom were from noble and landed families, and his father worked for the East India Company in Calcutta.
Guthrie most probably developed his interest in jade and rock crystal when he studied geology as a 17 year old cadet in 1825 in Addiscombe, and he joined the Bengal Engineers in 1828.
Through his family’s established connection with the Inglis and Lister families, he became acquainted with Harry Inglis and his Anglo-Indian wife Sophia (nee Lister). He may well have received gifts of objects that Harry had acquired as proceeds from his Indian military campaigns. Harry was the son and heir of George Inglis who owned Inglis & Co., a large Indian trading company.
During his time in India, Charles Guthrie enhanced his collections with acquisitions financed by his army pay and also income from properties in his late mother’s estate.
He subsequently retired at the honorary rank of Colonel in 1857, although he returned to England in 1855, at the same time as Harry and Sophia, due to having 2 years of accumulated leave.
Following Harry’s death in 1860, his embalmed body was returned to India, accompanied by Sophia and Charles, where it was interred in an above-ground tomb. Sophia inherited Harry’s vast estate, which almost certainly contained many fine jewels and Mughal objects. Sophia began living together with Charles in Calcutta, bearing him a son in 1862. Following a financially significant arrangement being agreed by Sophia with Charles, the two eventually married in 1863 with the family returning to England a short time thereafter.
Sophia died in 1866, with Charles being named as an executor with instruction to liquidate her un-itemised English estate which included “jewels, trinkets and shawls”.
Soon thereafter, in 1868, Guthrie sold part of his collection of jade and rock crystal objects to The India Museum and his large coin collection to a museum in Germany. Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie died in 1874 and the remainder of his collections was sold at auction, in accordance with the terms of his will, with many objects finding their way into other important collections and then subsequently to the museum.

Descriptive line

Chauri handle, multi-section construction, white nephrite jade, green nephrite banding, ferrous metal rod core, perhaps Delhi, c. 1800-1868, formerly in the Guthrie collection


Nephrite; Ferrous metal


Gemstones; Hardstone; Personal accessories


South & South East Asia Collection

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