Base for a Water Pipe (Huqqa) with Irises

Object Name: Water pipe base

Date: late 17th century

Geography: Attributed to India, Deccan, Bidar

Culture: Islamic

Medium: Zinc alloy; cast, engraved, inlaid with brass (bidri ware)

Dimensions: H. 6 7/8 in. (17.5 cm)
Diam. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art and Rogers Fund, 1984

Accession Number: 1984.221


Smoking became very popular during the seventeenth century in India, Turkey, and Iran that artist-craftsmen of great talent devised remarkable objects to augment its ceremonial pleasures: mouthpieces of jade, amber, or precious metal; splendidly adorned flexible tubes; opulent finials for the chillum in which the tobacco burned; and, above all, bases to contain water. In India, many of these were manufactured at Bidar, in the Deccan, where a special technique of inlaying brass, silver, or gold into an alloy of zinc, tin, and copper had been developed by the late sixteenth century. Rooted in the vigorous traditions of Islamic metalwork, so-called bidri work adapted motifs from many sources—textiles, jewelry, and architectural ornament—in order to satisfy the varying and changing tastes of patrons in many parts of India. By the mid-seventeenth century, when the earliest datable examples were made, Mughal influence predominated. Nevertheless, the bold and lively flower so sensitively repeated around this globular huqqa base also brings to mind the zestfulness of Ottoman ornament and recalls such precursors as the stylized flowers brought to India from China via Central Asia and Iran.