Some of the forms on this fountain, such as its hourglass shape and the lion mask (kirttimukha) on its spout, can be traced to Hindu sources, but their combination with a strong architectural profile and articulated ribs places its production at one of the Muslim courts of the Deccan. The fountain was formed from seven separately cast parts soldered together in a fashion reminiscent of contemporary cannon construction. Water would have been forced up through the pipe that projects from the base of the fountain, and would have trickled down the outside from the circular well at the top.
An hourglass shape with a rhythmic arrangement of ribs, moldings, and chased designs guides the eye from top to base of this brass fountain in a single fluid motion. The projecting pipe is adorned with the lion mask known as a kirtimukha (literally, "face of glory"); this extension would have connected to another pipe that forced water into and through the fountain up to its apex, from which the liquid would have descended. The fountain was formed from seven separately cast parts soldered together in a fashion reminiscent of contemporary cannon construction, and it makes sense that such specialists would have been involved in the casting of such a large and heavy piece.
The decorative motifs of the fountain combine the most distinctive aspects of metalwork from the Deccan, a fusion of strong architectural forms, articulated ribs, and animal motifs—known from numerous ewers and incense burners in the shape of lions, peacocks, geese, or fantastical combinations of the three.
Although no Deccani garden survives in its sixteenth- or seventeenth-century form, study of their physical remains, historical chronicles, and contemporary poetry reveals that they were an important feature of courtly architecture in this region of India. These sources all suggest the importance of water both visually and aurally in the gardens of the period to which this fountain dates, a notion confirmed by studies of the sophisticated water systems that supplied the capitals of Golconda and Bijapur. Two other fountains, both basins, appear to have come from the same garden; they also have petals with chased details, engraved lappets around the base, and a kirtimukha spout.perhaps fountains with different profiles were placed throughout this garden or in a line along a water channel to provide an eye-pleasing arrangement.
Marika Sardar in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. As noted by conservator Richard Stone, see report in curatorial files of the Department of Islamic Art.
2. See, for example, Husain, Ali Akbar. Scent in the Islamic Garden: A Study of Deccani Urdu Literary Sources. Oxford, 2000.
3. Among other studies, see Rötzer, Klaus. “Hydraulic Works and Gardens.” In Philon, ed. 2010, pp. 106–13..
4. One is in the David Collection, Copenhagen, no. 53 /1998, published in Folsach, Kjeld von. Art from the World of Islam in the David Collection. Rev. and enl. ed. 1990. Copenhagen, 2001, p. 336; the other is in a private collection.
Water was an important part of Deccani palaces: buildings were set in or next to reservoirs, and fountains and ornamental pools were placed throughout palaces, including on the upper floors. These two pieces are among the few known fountain fixtures to survive. The lotus-petal forms and aquatic beasts located on the spouts of each piece refer to their placement in water, while other decorative features (the lappets, fluting, and zoomorphic forms) come from the larger repertoire of Deccani metalwork.
Both pieces consist of several separately cast and joined elements, and in each case, the spout on the bottom was the device through which water flowed in either to fill the basin or to rise inside the fountain and then trickle down from the top. It has been suggested that these two objects came from the same Deccani garden and would have been aligned within a water channel.
Marika Sardar in (Haidar and Sardar 2015)
1- Observation of Terence McInerney.
Private collection, Europe; [ Terence McInerney, New York, by 1996–97; 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. 127.
Carboni, Stefano, Daniel Walker, and J. Kenneth Moore. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1997–1998; Islam." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 56, no. 2 (1997–1998). p. 13, ill. (color).
Haidar, Navina, and Marika Sardar. "Opulence and Fantasy." In Sultans of Deccan India 1500–1700. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. no. 127, p. 233, ill. pl. 127 (color).