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17th CENTURY DECCAN HAMSA
Height 16 cm width 12.5 cm depth 7.5 cm ( 6.5 x 5 x 3 in )
This charming old bird has body and wings incised throughout with patterned feathers and his snout like beak forms a spout. There are clearly the remains of tinning on this cast brass sculpture which would, when new, have made him shine like silver. The flamboyant crest on his head and probably on his tail, which is now missing, are purely South Indian while the highly stylised modelling of the wings points more to Islamic origins.
This vessel was probably made as an aquamanile with the spout in the bird's mouth, perhaps originally accompanied with a stopper, while the hole in the back and the lost tail are indications of the original filling funnel such as that seen on a 16th century example (see biblio).
The hamsa, a mythical bird, is a spiritual symbol representing the perfect balance in life; the word is derived from the exhalation of the Sanskrit sound 'ham' and the inhalation of 'sa' - the creature is associated with the swan or goose.
Gold, Silver and Bronze from Mughal India by Mark Zebrowski pub. London 1997
1868 / 3152
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