A rare and important gem-set gold Cruciform Pendant . Mughal India or Deccan, 17th Century. Photo Bonhams
comprising three perpendicular rectangular sections and a pointed section, all set with diamonds, centred on an oval medallion with a large central diamond within a band of cabochon rubies, the gold borders finely engraved with a trailing foliate vine; the reverse engraved with lions and lionesses hunting gazelles, against a dense ground of fruit and flower-bearing foliage, the bottom with an emerald bead suspension, the top with suspension loop; 5 cm. high (excluding emerald bead). Estimate: £70,000 - 100,000
In Context: In the 16th and 17th Century, Goa dominated the Oriental gems and precious objects trade, with European merchants and trading companies flooding into India, travelling to sell precious stones in areas they were most appreciated. The Flemish merchant Jacques de Coutre, who lived in Goa between 1592 until 1624, recorded trips to Bijapur, Golconda and Agra in the course of his business (Silva 2004, pp. 43-4). The first Jesuit mission to India was in 1580, but it is known that from c. 1570 there were already Portuguese traders residing at the Mughal court. In fact, the spread of Christianity through the subcontinent was probably more as a result of European trading companies than the Jesuit missions. In India, Portuguese sailors, soldiers and merchants were encouraged to inter-marry, and Goa developed into a strongly Indianised Catholic community, known as the capital of the "Portuguese State of India", with a viceroy representing the king.
Following Akbar's first encounter with the Europeans in Surat in 1573, exchange visits by craftsmen from Goa and the Mughal court were encouraged, and court artisans were able to discover and absorb artistic ideas and concepts with great success, assimilating and transforming them into something intrinsically Indian. The arts of filigree and enamelling were probably learnt by Mughal artisans during the 1575 mission to Goa. On their return to the court, they were asked to show what they had learned and in return received great praise from Akbar. As time passed and more nations came into contact with the Mughal world, more foreign craftsmen would enter the service of the Mughal court to work alongside the Hindu and Muslim artists already there, having a profound influence on the style and decoration of objects.
These visits, in addition to the trade, and gifts sent with religious or diplomatic missions and embassies, were responsible for the transmission of European artistic concepts to the Mughal ateliers, and both Akbar and Jahangir showed a considerable appetite for foreign works of art and curiosities. Sir Thomas Roe, the British Ambassador of James I to Jahangir from 1615 to 1619, wrote of the struggle to find suitable gifts for the Emperor, remarking that they were so keen to receive these European rarities that shipments were seized before they even reached Roe (Jackson and Jaffer 2004, p. 83).
From the earliest days of the Portuguese presence in India, the foreign incomers commissioned precious objects from Indian workshops, initially wanting traditional Indian jewels, but by the early 17th Century the local craftsmen were creating objects that were European in style and concept, although produced in the Indian manner. An example of one of these hybrid pieces is the so-called "Portuguese" whistle in the Schatzkammer des Deutschen Ordens in Vienna (inv. DO13, illustrated in Flores and Silva 2004, p. 125), first recorded in the 1619 inventory of
Maximilian III. The piece has the form of known Renaissance whistle-shaped jewels, but indications of Mughal work are evident, especially in the highly detailed chasing of the foliate motifs and in the gem-setting technique.
One of the earliest references to crosses being made by Mughal craftsmen is found in letters of the Jesuits, who came to India with the aim of converting the Emperor Akbar to Christianity. In 1595, Father Jerome Xavier records that Prince Salim (later Jahangir) visited the Jesuit chapel at Lahore, and having seen a crucifix, wanted one to be made in ivory by his own craftsmen; and that later in 1603 he had seen one in gold-mounted emerald on a thick gold chain, which Prince Salim showed to him and other Fathers of the Society of Jesus (quoted in Stronge, Smith and Harle 1988, p. 100; and Silva 2004, p. 44). Also, it is known that in 1596 several goldsmiths from Goa were working in Lahore, producing Portuguese style jewellery for Akbar, and that some of these pieces were shaped like reliquaries, which Jerome Xavier admired (Flores and Silva 2004, p. 118).
The Mughal Empire also commissioned Christian liturgical gifts to be sent to Goa. The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa owned a gold chalice in the 18th Century that was sent from the Mughal court in Delhi by Juliana Dias da Costa (1657 – 1734), who was Bahadur Shah's favourite wife, also known as Juliana Fiddawie, and who was the official Portuguese ambassador to the Mughal court (Silva 2004, p. 48). A rare group of Mughal gem-set jade objects, consisting of a reliquary cross and a pair of cruets, now in the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, Oporto (inv. 120, 1,2,3) and previously in the collection of the Cistercian Convento de Alcobaca near Lisbon, is a possibly unique group of Mughal objects produced for Christian worship, although sadly it is not known if the set was commissioned or donated although it was likely that it was made by
the imperial workshops as an ambassadorial gift for the Portuguese in Goa (Jackson and Jaffer 2004, p. 110 and 112, no. 8.10).
The Pendant. The basic shape of the present lot relates to an emerald and ruby-set gold pendant, attributed to the Deccan, first half of 17th Century, in the al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait (Keene and Kaoukji 2001, p. 29, no. 1.24), although lacking the oval roundel around the central stone, a feature which recalls European Renaissance devotional and cameo pendants of the 16th Century, for example a Spanish pendant depicting Christ between two saints in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC (Hackenbroch 1979, p. 328, no. 875).
This unusual shape of this pendant is derived from a cross fitchy ("fixed cross") or the Cross of St James, where the lower limb is pointed like a sword blade, symbolising the taking up of the sword in the name of Christ. The form was said to have originated during the Crusades when the crusaders carried a small cross with a pointed lower arm, which could be thrust into the ground to perform daily prayers. The Cross of St James became the emblem of the military Order of Santiago, named in reference to Spain's patron saint, St James the Great. Its use spread to Castile and Portugal, where it was carried by warriors patrolling the borders with Muslim Spain.
One of the most celebrated features of Indian jewellery is the elaborate decoration usually found on the backs of gem-set pieces, which is usually in enamel. However, in the earlier period of jewellery there is a variety of treatments of the backs, one type being an elegant engraved, almost carved, decoration, as in the present lot. This form of decoration was known to have been used in the early 17th Century, certainly the first quarter.
The engraved foliate vine on the front of the pendant can be compared closely to a group of small silver and gold objects appearing at the same time as the first Mughal ambassadors reached Goa. Produced between 1575 and 1600 in Goanese workshops, the group includes the aforementioned gem-set gold whistle in the Deutscher Orden, Vienna, with carved foliate motifs very similar to the vine found on the pendant (Trnek and Silva 2001, pp. 147-9, cat. 45). The vine is also comparable to the background decoration on the gold fittings of a Mughal dagger datable to c. 1620 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. 1984-332, illustrated in Welch 1985, p. 204, no. 133); and also to the gold ground on the thumb ring in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (I.M. 207-1920, illustrated ibid., p. 201, no. 129).
A more elaborate form of this same vine is found on the back of the pendant, bearing both flowers and fruits. Mughal style decoration can also be
found on the backs of a group of three liturgical objects, known as the "Vidigueira Treasure", bequeathed to a convent in 1597 and made in Goa pre 1575-80 in the late Renaissance style, now in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon (illustrated in Flores and e Silva, 2004, pp. 122-23). The reverse sides of all three pieces are engraved with animals amidst a trailing flower and fruit-bearing vine, although grapes in this instance. Although of earlier date, similar treatment of the leaves, fruits and gazelles can be observed,which can be compared to animal depictions in the margins of two leaves from an album commissioned by Jahangir, now in the Freer Gallery Washington (Beach 1981, nos. 16b and 16c). At first glance, the fruits appear to be grapes, but closer inspection reveals them to be clusters rather than bunches, which is unusual. It
has been suggested that these might be pineapples or more probably jackfruits, both of which were known in India at this time.
Animal themes were popular in the Mughal period and were painted by the best artists of the court, including Miskin, Mansur and Basawan. Since the media of paper and metal are very different to work with, identical depictions of animals are not possible, with representations on metal more stylised than their naturalistic counterparts in painting. On the present lot, the back of the pendant depicts both lions and lionesses with very distinctive spotted markings to represent the fur. The treatment of the lions and gazelles compares to those in the border of a leaf from the Nasr al-Din Shah album (Wright 2008, pp. 414-15, nos. 72A and 73B), in which the animals also have fur markings and are of similar form; and there is a lioness with the same rounded form on a page from the Falnama, attributed to Golconda, c. 1610, now in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection (Leach 1998, no. 65 f, f. 21b). There was a strong tradition of animal decoration on metal objects in Mughal India and the Deccan in the 16th/ 17th Century, a good example of which is a salver from Golconda, c. 1600, with an elaborate design of birds and animals amidst dense floral ornament, now in the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum, Hyderabad , inv. 76.1442 (Welch 1985, p/ 313, no. 209).
This pendant was most probably made Indian craftsmen working under Catholic patronage, either Indian or European, and can clearly be related to a larger group of hybrid precious objects, which have only been explored by scholars in recent years, having been overshadowed by interest in the Jesuit missions to India, and is an intriguing addition to an existing corpus of works that demonstrate the extent of cultural exchange between Europe and Southern Asia.
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