Place of Origin: India (Partabgarh, Rajasthan)
Date: 19th Century
Overall: 375mm by 245mm
This tabletop mirror comes from Partabgarh in Rajasthan, India and depicts religious scenes from Hindu dharma, surmounted by an impressive repoussé silver crest. The open-work crest, on a red enamel base, contains two opposing peacocks divided by a floral ornament in a vase. Green glass panels are set in a silver border chased with flowery decorations and surrounding the large mirror. The panels are decorated with the thewa technique, whereby a sheet of delicately pierced and patterned gold foil is fused by the application of heat to the transparent glass below.
The top central panel shows a trimurti sculpture within a temple setting, which represents the supreme divinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. A bearded man, probably a local ruler and the subject of the inscription at the bottom of the mirror, and his attendant sit to the left of the trimurti in reverence. The two flanking panels depict Rama, Sita and their most loyal follower Hanuman in a darbar. Four panels run down each side of the mirror and show Shiva riding on his cow Nandi, and Krishna with his gopis or Radha in the playful poses that one associates with the eight avatar of Vishnu. All set in lush gardens filled with flowers, birds and pagodas. In the top left and top right panels Krishna plays the flute to Radha and they stand in front of a low pillar wall which separates them from a lake filled with ducks, fish and turtles. Bottom left and right, in the same panel where Shiva rides Nandi, a peacock spreads his train of feathers in a bid to court a peahen. The bottom row has a central panel with an inscription, flanked by two panels that each showing three female celestial musicians. The inscription in the lower central panel:
Nar Bihal Bhupal
Son of Fatmal, who is the protector of the Hindu religion. A subject’s happiness is a great gift from his King.
The 3rd Baron Lord Mark William Ogilvie Birdwood born 23/11/38, died 11/7/15. His great-grandfather was Herbert Mills Birdwood CSI, LL.D (1837-1907) who was the brother of Sir George Christopher Molesworth Birdwood KCIE, CSI (1832-1917), keeper of the Indian museum at South Kensington (now part of the V&A), and author of 'The Industrial Arts of India'.
Of note, GC Birdwood (1) explains the process of making ‘Pertabgarh work’, and illustrates a casket with panels of Pertabgarh work from the collection of the Queen (Queen Victoria at the time). It was presented to H.M. the Queen by Maharaja Dalpat Singh of the princely state of Partabgarh, Rajasthan in 1864 It still forms part of the Royal Collection and is currently on loan to the V&A (LOAN:ROYAL.792) (2), and at the time of writing the box is on display in the South Asia galleries.
(1) Birdwood, The Industrial Arts of India, 1884, P.218