Huqqa Base thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
South Asia, Room 41

Huqqa Base

ca. 1850 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This base for a water pipe (huqqa) belongs to a class of Indian metalwork known as bidri and was made in the 19th century. The technique takes its name from the city of Bidar, in present day Karnataka, where it is thought to have originated and this piece was probably made there, though in the 19th century there were other centres. The technique consists of casting objects from a high-zinc alloy and then inlaying them with silver or brass, or a combination of both. The decoration, particularly in the later periods, could also be done by hammering silver or brass wire onto a cross-hatched ground. When the surface ornamentation has been completed, the craftsman briefly covers the object with a mud paste contining salt, ammonium chloride and unrefined potassium nitrate. When the paste is removed, the natural dull grey of the zinc alloy has changed colour to a deep, matt black which enhances, without altering, the brightness of the inlay. The earliest pieces of bidri date from the early 17th century, when production is thought to have been only in centres such as Bidar and Hyderadabad in the Deccan sultanates. These independent Muslim kingdoms in the south of India were conquered by the Mughal emperor Alamgir (r. 1658-1707) in the second half of the 17th century. Their independent artistic styles then became heavily influenced by Mughal art, and techniques such as bidri spread beyond the Deccan. This piece was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Bidri, inlaid with silver
Brief Description
Bell shaped bidriware huqqa base with poppy motif inlaid with silver, Bidar, ca.1850.
Physical Description
A 'huqqa' is a smoking device that consists of a small container with smoking leaves mounted on a vessel of water which is provided with a long tube and arranged so that smoke is drawn through the water where it is cooled and up the tube to the mouth. This huqqa is made of Bidri, the process of decoration whereby silver sheet and wire are inlayed into cast pieces of blackened zinc alloy, first practiced at Bidar in Karnataka. This bell shaped 'huqqa' base is inlaid with the poppy motif, a typical Bidri design of the nineteenth century. The inspiration of the motif comes from the delicate poppy plants of the tomb of Shah Jahan. Poppies were a popular design on Mughal fine and decorative arts and continued into 19th Century patterns found on bidri ware.
Dimensions
  • Height: 18.5cm
  • Diameter: 20.1cm
Object history
From the 1852 exhibition
Subject depicted
Summary
This base for a water pipe (huqqa) belongs to a class of Indian metalwork known as bidri and was made in the 19th century. The technique takes its name from the city of Bidar, in present day Karnataka, where it is thought to have originated and this piece was probably made there, though in the 19th century there were other centres. The technique consists of casting objects from a high-zinc alloy and then inlaying them with silver or brass, or a combination of both. The decoration, particularly in the later periods, could also be done by hammering silver or brass wire onto a cross-hatched ground. When the surface ornamentation has been completed, the craftsman briefly covers the object with a mud paste contining salt, ammonium chloride and unrefined potassium nitrate. When the paste is removed, the natural dull grey of the zinc alloy has changed colour to a deep, matt black which enhances, without altering, the brightness of the inlay. The earliest pieces of bidri date from the early 17th century, when production is thought to have been only in centres such as Bidar and Hyderadabad in the Deccan sultanates. These independent Muslim kingdoms in the south of India were conquered by the Mughal emperor Alamgir (r. 1658-1707) in the second half of the 17th century. Their independent artistic styles then became heavily influenced by Mughal art, and techniques such as bidri spread beyond the Deccan. This piece was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.
Bibliographic References
  • 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.p.224, pl.199
  • Susan Stronge, Bidri Ware, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1985, cat. 22, p. 58.
Collection
Accession Number
136-1852

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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