An Indian style mother of pearl dish
Lot 363
A rare Indo-Portuguese mother-of-pearl Dish with European gilt mounts Gujerat, 17th Century
Sold for £19,800 (US$ 33,260) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
A rare Indo-Portuguese gilt-mounted mother-of-pearl Dish
Gujerat, 17th Century
with rounded sides, the surface with mother-of-pearl plaques laid down in radial patterns, the rim with gilt floral bosses and banding, exterior of rim with further mother-of-pearl plaques, the base with a lacquered floral design, one plaque deficient
19.5 cm. diam.


  • This is a fine example of Gujarati mother-of-pearl ware, particularly on account of the lacquered base, which is a very unusual feature. The dish shares its floral design with others of its type, namely mother-of-pearl plaques laid down in the form of a stylised flower head, probably inspired by the lotus flower, a popular motif in Hindu, Buddhist iconography, and possibly by porcelain dishes of similar shape dating to the Yuan and Ming dynasties in China.

    Mother-of-pearl wares were a favoured material at the Mughal court, as witnessed by Sir Thomas Roe in 1616, when he noted a throne and a pavilion covered in this technique at the emperor’s camp near Agra (The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the Court of the Great Mughal, Vol. II, pp. 325-26). It was worked into the decoration of luxury goods made for the Indian market and for export to Europe and the Middle East.

    Records show that mother-of-pearl wares were being imported to Europe as early as the second quarter of the 16th Century, the first wares being listed in the royal collections of Manuel I of Portugal in 1522 and of Francis I of France in 1529. The exact place of manufacture is not certain although Ahmedabad in Gujerat has been suggested. It is thought that the commissioning of such works was particularly associated with the Portuguese, which might explain the presence of examples in private Portuguese collections, including one basin in the collection of Dr. Sequiera Pinto (see The Heritage of Rauluchantim, Lisbon, 1996, pp. 149-150, fig. 23). Another example can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum (see Amin Jaffer, Luxury Goods from India, 2002, pp. 38-39, no. 11).

    It is likely that such goods were brought to Britain in the 16th and 17th Centuries by merchants, both as high value gifts and as luxury imports, and examples are also listed in English royal collections at the same time. For example, it is known that Thomas Cromwell presented Henry VIII (reg. 1509-47) with a mother-of-pearl ewer set in gold as a present for New Year in 1524 (Glanville, Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England, p. 319).

    It is unlikely that Gujerati mother-of-pearl wares, although produced in functional Western shapes, were made for display purposes only and would have sat in curiosity cabinets alongside other items of naturalia and artificialia. Following the Renaissance tradition of embellishing rarities and curiosities, a number of such items were later mounted in Europe, such as a silver-gilt mounted basin in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, bearing the marks of a London silver-maker and dated 1621-22 (Jaffer, 2002, p. 42, no. 13).

    A Gujarati basin and ewer with gold mounts was offered for sale at Sotheby's, Arts of the Islamic World, London, 28th April 2004, lot 161.