A Northern Indian Ivory Group depicting a Snake Charmer
- 2nd half 19th century
Ivory & Ebony
15.5 x 10.5 x 13.6 cms
The thickly bearded figure stands with a snake charmers horn held to his mouth in his right hand, bending towards the cobra in front of him. He has a handlebar moustache and wears a turban, dhoti, kurta and a bead necklace. A separately carved snake is held in his left hand, a bamboo staff under his arm. Surrounding him on the rectangular base with four feet and foliate borders are a mongoose, a scorpion, a brown viper and accoutrements comprising a basket and lid, two cloth bags, a folded ground sheet, a bell shaped hookah bottle, a water vessel and two cups.
This group seems to typify a certain sort of object produced in Victorian India. The concept is clear: to depict a snake charmer, an everyday character straight from the pages of Kipling, accurately with a minimum of artistic license. This has been cleverly achieved at a cost of the indigenous spontaneity of the Indian artist, but the compensating educational and moralistic values thereby achieved were no doubt uppermost in the Victorian mind. Following the Great Exhibition of 1851, objects of this type were produced for the many subsequent exhibitions, the auspices of the schools of art and industry established between then and the end of the century.
A similar group is in the State Museum, Patna.