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Ask MOA: What Is This Vase?

Ask MOA: What Is It? is your opportunity to ask MOA Curators and Collections staff about an artwork or other mystery object at home that you’ve always wondered about. We select certain inquiries and objects to feature online.

This featured Ask MOA case is about a floral vase from an estate collection.

Question from inquirer:

“I found this vase in my aunt’s estate collection. I believe it’s bronze as it’s very heavy. Looks like silver-inlay in a floral pattern. It’s 11” in height. Do you recognize the vase? Age?”

Answer from Fuyubi Nakamura:

I think the vase you have is a Bidriware vase. The name Bidriware derives from the city of Bidar in Karnataka in the Deccan Plateau region in Southern India, because the technique was developed and established there around the 14th to 15th centuries. However, it is believed that it originally derived from Iran or Iraq, and was introduced to India by followers of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti from Iran.

It first arrived in Ajmer in Rajasthan, then to Bijapur, and was later introduced it to the rulers of Bidar. The Persian influence is evident as it relates to the metalwork, produced from an alloy of zinc and copper or lead, inlaid or overlaid with brass, silver or sometimes gold known in the Islamic world. The metal surface is blackened.

Bidriware as articles of everyday use, such as spices containers, vases and cups, have been made in this medium. The combination of intricate silver inlay against a black metal surface is characteristic of this ware. It is still produced in this style in Bidar in Karnataka, and also in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, so I cannot tell how old this particular vase is, but it is lovely!