Jade pp 273-296 | Cite as

Islamic and Mughal Jades

The Jade-Carving Tradition in Turkestan, Persia, Turkey and India
  • Robert Skelton

Abstract

Although the countries of the Islamic Near East v; inherited the technology for working hardstones J S from the ancient empires of Western Asia such as Sassanian Iran and Byzantium, it was not until the early 15th century that we find these skills being consistently applied to the working of nephrite jade.1 Prior to this, the most spectacular Islamic hardstone objects were the superb rock crystal vessels produced for the Fatimid rulers of Egypt during the 10th and 11th centuries ad.2 Less ambitious, but far more prolific than these rarities were the amulets and personal seals made from various hardstones and used throughout the lands of Islam down to the present time.3 This widespread tradition of seal engraving ensured that the technical means of working materials of similar hardness to jade was readily available throughout the region. Therefore it remained only for Muslim hard-stone workers (hakkak) to gain access to adequate supplies of nephrite for the art of jade-carving to develop.

Keywords

Quartz Depression Agate Europe Sandstone 

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Notes to Chapter

  1. 1.
    Professor Michael Rogers has drawn attention to small quantities of worked jade excavated at Near Eastern sites of the earlier medieval period and to a fascinating reference to ‘jade vessels of various types inlaid with gold’ in a list of presents from a Yemeni embassy to a Mamuluk Sultan in 1303–4 (J. M. Rogers, Islamic Art & Design 1500–1700, British Museum, London, 1983, p.149).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a brief general account of Islamic hardstone carving see R. Pinder-Wilson, ‘Rock Crystal and Jade’ in The Arts of Islam (Arts Council of Great Britain), London, 1976, pp. 119–24.Google Scholar
  3. 3a.
    Ludvik Kalus, Catalogue des cachets, bulb et talismans islamiques, Bibiothèque Nationale, Paris, 1981:Google Scholar
  4. 3b.
    Ludvik Kalus, Catalogue of Islamic Seals and Talismans, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1986.Google Scholar
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    J. M. Rogers, ‘V. V. Bartold’s Article O Pogrebenii Timura (“The Burial of Timur”)’, Iran, vol. II (London, 1974), p. 87.Google Scholar
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    Lentz and Lowry, V. V. Bartold’s Article O Pogrebenii Timura (“The Burial of Timur”)’, Iran, vol. II (London, 1974) pp. 143, 339, No. 50.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    This was first published in the catalogue of Oriental Islamic Art, of the Calouste Gulbenian Collection, Museum Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, 1963, No. 28, where its identification by R. H. Pinder-Wilson first allowed him to recognize the existence of a Timurid jade-carving tradition, whose works had previously been attributed to Mughal India.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri or Memoirs of Jahangir, tr. A. Rogers, ed. H. Beveridge, vol. I, London, 1909, p. 146.Google Scholar
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    Lentz and Lowry, V. V. Bartold’s Article O Pogrebenii Timura (“The Burial of Timur”)’, Iran, vol. II (London, 1974), pp. 272, 360, No. 150.Google Scholar
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    Mr R. Pinder-Wilson has drawn the attention of the present writer and others to the relevant passage in al-Biruni’s Kitab al-jamahirfi ma’rifat al-jawahir; see also Lentz and Lowry, op. cit. pp. 221,235.Google Scholar
  17. 16a.
    E.g., A. S. Beveridge in The Babur-nama in English, London, 1922, pp. 27, 67, 860, 871. For various references to yada contesting its equation with jade (yashm),Google Scholar
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    see Abdul Aziz, The Imperial Treasury of the Indian Mughals, Lahore, 1942, p. 491 ff.Google Scholar
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    Rogers, ‘V. V. Bartold’s Article O Pogrebenii Timura (“The Burial of Timur”)’, Iran, vol. II (London, 1974) (The Treasury), p. 52.Google Scholar
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    R. Skelton ‘Characteristics of Later Turkish Jade Carving’, Fifth International Congress of Turkish Art, ed. G. Feher, Budapest, 1978, fig. 9. The origin of this cup is uncertain but it may be an eastern Turkish copy of a Ming prototype. The Behbud inscription is discussed by Pope (op. cit., pp. 53–4), who tends to connect it with a slave of Shah cAbbas I mentioned in the Memoirs ofjahangir (Tuzuk, trans. I, p. 294). However, Babur — a contemporary witness — notes that Sultan Husayn did Behbud the satisfaction of putting his name on the stamp and coin (A. S. Beveridge, op. cit., p. 277 and appendix H.d).Google Scholar
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  35. 31.
    This possibility is supported by the find of two pebbles of good-quality nephrite in the Teri Toi tributary of the Indus, Kohat district, N.W.F.P., reported by B. C. M. Butler, An Occurrence of Nephrite Jade in Pakistan’, Mineralogical Magazine, vol. 33, 1963, pp. 385–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For a discussion of these views see R. Skelton, The Indian Heritage Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, Victoria & Albert Museum, London (1972).Google Scholar
  37. 33.
    Apart from examples already mentioned there are two Mingjades in Tehran which passed through Timurid and Safavid hands (M. Bahrami, ‘Chinese Porcelains from Ardebil in the Tehran Museum’, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 25, 1949–50, pp. 13–19), a Ming cup inscribed for the Mughal Emperor Jahangir at Mandu in 1617 (Morley, op. cit., p. 115, pl. 11) and among pieces which reached Europe there is a Ming cup that entered the French royal collection (M. Pirazzoli-T’Servestevens, ‘Un jade chinois des collections de Louis IV au Musée Guimet’, Arts Asiatiques, XXV, 1972, pp. 199–201).Google Scholar
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    R. Skelton, ‘The Shah Jahan Cup’, Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin, vol. 2, No. 3, July 1966, p. 109, fig. 7.Google Scholar
  39. 35.
    This was suggested as a possibility by the present writer (Skelton et al., 1982, p. 118, No. 355a and followed by Stephen Markel (P. Pal et al., Romance of the Taj Mahal, Los Angeles/London, 1989, p. 145).Google Scholar
  40. 36a.
    A. Maynard, ‘Chinese and Indian Jade Carvings in the Collection of Sir Isaac and Lady Wolfson’, The Connoisseur, June 1963, fig. 1; Spink & Son Ltd., Islamic Art from India, London, 1980, p. 25, No. 31. The other is in the Brundage Collection, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  41. 36b.
    (Vishakha N. Desai et. al., Life at Court: Art for India’s Rulers, 16th – 19th Centuries, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1985, p. 132, No. 107).Google Scholar
  42. 37.
    Welch, op. cit., p. 195. No. 123.Google Scholar
  43. 38.
    This is not to say that Indian huqqas of other shapes were restricted to a single opening.Google Scholar
  44. 39a.
    Neither type of spherical huqqa appears in miniatures before the middle of the century. The one possible exception to this is a painting showing the ambassador Khan cAlam with Shah cAbbas I but Beach argues that it is a version of c. 1650 (M. C. Beach, The Grand Mogul Imperial Painting in India 1600–1660, Williamstown, 1978, p. 109). A number of spherical qalyans were produced by Persian potters during the later 17th centuryGoogle Scholar
  45. 39b.
    (Arthur Lane, Later Islamic Pottery, London, 1957, pls. 74, 87). Lane’s dating of one of them to c. 1600, shortly before the introduction of tobacco in Iran, cannot be sustained.Google Scholar
  46. 40.
    Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, 1, pp. 370–1.Google Scholar
  47. 41.
    For the Rev. Terry’s description of 1616 see H. Yule and A. C. Burnell, Hobson Jobson, London, 1903, pp. 428–9.Google Scholar
  48. 42a.
    For a Persian illustration of the type in the reign of Shah cAbbas II see Esin Atil, The Brush of the Masters Drawings from Iran and India, Washington, D.C., 1978, pl. 25. It is rare though not unknown in Indian miniatures of the period,Google Scholar
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    R. Skelton, The Indian Heritage Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, Victoria & Albert Museum, London (1966), pp. 104–11.Google Scholar
  51. 44a.
    The low pedestal as well as the lobed body and asymmetry of Shah Jahan’s cup are prefigured in the nephrite and other hard stone carvings of Ottavio Miseroni working in Prague around the year 1600, see Prag um 1600 Kunst und Kultur am Hofe Kaiser Rudolfs II, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1988,1, figs. 363, 367 etc. The fact that hardstone vessels were considered suitable for sale or gift to Asian rulers is confirmed by a letter written by the painter Rubens in 1634 about an antique agate vase which he sent with other agates to the East Indies for a payment of 900 florins between 1626 and 1628. The vessel carrying it was captured by the Dutch, so it is not clear whether it reached India before finding its way back to Europe by the early 19th century. However, the base of the vase, treated as an open flower with petals in relief, provides us with an interesting precursor for the inverted lotus of Shah Jahan’s cup. Later Mughal jades supported by floral rosettes provide even closer parallels with this antique model (Marvin Chauncey Ross, ‘The Rubens Vase — Its History and Date’, The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, vol. VI, 1943, pp. 18, 37 & fig. 4.). However, although its treatment changes after Jahangir’s reign, the lotus roundel is a very old motif in Indian architectural decoration and survives into the early Mughal periodGoogle Scholar
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    R. Skelton, ‘Jades moghols’, L’Oeil, 96, December 1962, p. 44, fig. 3;Google Scholar
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    Mai Chih-ch’eng and Teng Shu-p’ing, Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Hindustan Jade in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1983, pls. 23, 24; others are not yet published.Google Scholar
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    cf. Joan Evans Pattern A Study of Ornamentation in Western Europe, 1180–1900, Oxford, 1931, vol. II, pls. 258, 272, 274, 279 etc. It has become fashionable for excessively zealous European scholars in observing such influences to become the subject of criticism but caution in this respect should not delude us into ignoring what is plainly evident.Google Scholar
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    Skelton, The Indian Heritage Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1978, fig. 10. Similar decoration appears on the walls of a bowl in the National Palace Collection, Taipei. This has similarly angled walls but combined with plain saw-cut handles of the vertical variety that are incompatible with Mughal taste (Mai Chih-ch’eng and Teng Shu-p’ing, op. cit., 1983, pl. 13).Google Scholar
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    A small jade plaque in the British Museum is inscribed in Persian to the effect that it is ‘A gift from Yarkand’ but it does not have sufficient decorative detail for it to be very useful as a specimen of local workmanship.Google Scholar
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  • Robert Skelton

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