Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bidri Box for Holding Pan

Object Name:
early–mid 17th century
Attributed to India, Deccan, Bidar
Zinc alloy; cast, engraved, inlaid with silver and brass (bidri ware)
H. 3 15/16 in. (9.925 cm) W. 5 3/8 in. (13.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art and Rogers Fund, 1996
Accession Number:
1996.3a, b
Not on view
This box was probably meant to hold pan, the digestif made of a betel leaf rolled with lime paste and spices. Its robust architectonic form, reminiscent of early Islamic architecture in India, is a perfect foil for the bold rhythms of the arabesque designs that dominate its surface.
The brass-yellow scrolling lattice that encloses the silver-petaled flowers covering the surface of this pan (betel nut) box distinguishes the object from numerous later bidri vessels decorated with individual flowering plants. The decoration relates to illumination found in Deccani books from the same time period, as well as to the patterning on objects such as a seventeenth-century vambrace[1] and an unidentified object[2], dating to the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, and which is also decorated with arabesques. The mid-sixteenth-century inlay work at the Rangin Mahal (Colored Palace) displays a comparable use of a scrolling vine with flowers and split-leaf motifs[3]. This type of decoration seems to indicate an earlier date for the box than other objects within the bidri group,[4] and it helps to establish the genesis of the bidri tradition at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Marika Sardar in (Haidar and Sardar 2015)


1. Michell, George, and Mark Zebrowski, "Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanates. The New Cambridge History of India 1, no. 7. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1999 p. 233, fig. 171; Elgood, Robert, "Swords in the Deccan in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Their Manufacture and the Influence of European Imports." In Haidar and Sardar, 2011, p. 219, fig. 1.

2. Steel Object, Possibly a Door Knocker or Catch Rosemary Crill in Indian Heritage 1982, p. 148, no. 494; Zebrowski, Mark, "Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India". London: Alexandria Press, in association with Laurence King,1997, p. 105, pl. 116a, b; Christie’s, Art of the Islamic & Indian Worlds, including Works from the Simon Digby Collection. Sale cat. Christie’s, London, 2011a, p. 227, lot 226; Simon Ray "Indian and Islamic Works of Art", 2011, pp. 56–57, no. 25.

3. Mother-of-Pearl Inlay, Rangin Mahal (Colored Palace), Bidar, mid-16th century

4.As originally suggested by Zebrowski, Mark "Ornamental Pandans of the Mughal Age." Mārg 36, no. 2 (March), pp. 31–40. 1983b.
Private collection, England; [ John Lawrence Fine Arts Inc., London, until 1996; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Courtly Radiance: Metalwork from Islamic India," September 25, 2001–May 5, 2002, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy," April 20, 2015–July 26, 2015, no. 84.

Zebrowski, Mark. Gold, Silver and Bronze from Mughal India. London: Laurence King Publishers, 1997. p. 265, ill. figs. 448ab, 496.

Haidar, Navina, and Marika Sardar. "Opulence and Fantasy." In Sultans of Deccan India 1500–1700. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. no. 84, pp. 184-185, ill. pl. 84.

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