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With plaque to reverse stamped 'HIRJI KANJI & SONS'.
Provenance: The Darbar of Bilkha, Saurashtra, Gujarat, India.
The chair in foliate repoussé silver veneer, the arched top rail flanking an enamel coat of arms above a rectangular upholstered back flanked by square section uprights with fine enamel flowerhead running pattern, terminating in acorn finials. The arms in the form of roaring lions modelled in the round, flanking a padded seat, the seat rail chased with foliate and floral borders centred by enamel roundels and a shaped apron decorated with repoussé work fish on cabriole legs terminating in hairy paw feet to the front and square section legs to the rear.
The enamelled European style coat-of-arms for the Bilkha Rajput with the inscription ‘Bilkha Darbar’ below in devanāgarī script and in English.
This splendid throne chair, or silver-gilt chair of state, where made for the court of the Darbar of the ‘Princely State’ of Bilkha, who reigned during the age of British suzerainty, over a small principality in the region of Saurashtra, now in the modern Indian state of Gujarat. Darbar was a title of honour or respect adopted from Persian and used in the state of Gujarat to refer to a Rajput or Lord of a small Principality.
Since the eighteenth century Britain had had a firm foothold on India and in Gujarat the rulers of the ancient princely kingdoms, the Rajput’s, entered into treaties with the East India Company, securing protection of their borders in exchange for formal recognition of British paramountcy. European fashions and designs became increasingly popular with aspiring Indian potentates, especially after 1876, when Queen Victoria granted arms to the Princes. This created an increased demand for elaborate furniture, such as thrones, upon which the leading Indian families could display their new symbols of Imperial legitimacy. The technical ability of indigenous craftsmen was highly accomplished and they set about copying British forms to satisfy the demand from the resident British and local rulers. Often British artists and designers were called upon to assist in the aggrandisement of local Indian courts. The result was frequently an aesthetically pleasing amalgam of European form and Indian ornamentation.
The striking armrests on the present throne are formed by a pair of imposing lions modelled in the round, while the apron of the chair is embossed with swimming fish, thus integrating traditional Indian symbols with an otherwise European form. In ancient India, this type of throne, supported by lions or tigers was known as Simhasana. The English for the Sanskrit Simha is lion. Simhasana is consequently the lion pose. The lion is glorified in different forms in all traditional Oriental texts. In India, for example, it represents both the country and the people. The lion is generally considered as the noblest and the strongest, an example of virtue, greatness, fidelity and morality. It also represents an image of paternal power and of divine force. It therefore became an eminently suitable symbol of Kingship, emphasising the Kings moral superiority and literal seat of power. Gold and silver were used not only for the display of wealth but also as one of the 'Pure' materials, following Hindu teachings.
The vision of a king in all his splendour was believed to be auspicious and central to the Hindu concept of darshan, the propitious act of seeing and being seen by a superior being. Magnificent thrones, often in precious metals, therefore conveyed an important symbolic message, reflecting the wealth and majesty of the ruler and the idea of darshan as an integral aspect of kingship.
In a fascinating regal portrait of Darbar Shri Rawat Kanthad Wala, Darbar, Sahib of Bilkha 1928-1947 we can see the Darbar enthroned on this chair, his rich golden robes and jewels contrasting with the striking silver of the throne.
This magnificent regal throne chair is a rare and important survivor from an evocative and extraordinary period of history.
Archer, M and Lightbown, R: India Observed: India as viewed by British Artists; exbn.cat. Victoria and Albert Museum; London 1982.
|Height||145.00 cm||(57.09 inches)|
|Width||74.00 cm||(29.13 inches)|
|Depth||68.00 cm||(26.77 inches)|