Unlike an ornament made of an expensive metal and stones, often the
tool of betraying conceit or vanity, this piece rendered in humble
silver portrays the quality of mind. A medium lesser in cost silver
requires greater artistic merit and quality of workmanship for
transforming it into an ornament. Whatever other reasons, it is
perhaps for the scope it has for the man’s creative faculties that
silver, despite that it tarnishes and corrodes, is the wider world’s
chosen medium for its ornaments, ornamental articles of use and
coinage. Gold was the metal of kings, but silver, that of gods and
deities, and this status silver seems to have since earliest times.
World knew and used silver since 4000 years before Christ. One of the
earliest finds from a Harappan site in India is a silver vase datable
to 3000 BC used as a part of worship paraphernalia. Apart the deity
jewellery that might comprise gold and precious gems, most other
articles, from ‘Simhasana’ – seat, ‘Chhatra’ – canopy or umbrella, or
chowri to utensils used in performing rites are made of silver.
A rare work of art, the necklace has been crafted using only a little
of silver though as massive the imagination and artistic skill that
produced it. It consists of a number of tiny units, each replicating
other in its exactness and with rare precision rhythmically emerging
in the magic chain. These units assimilate three miniaturised but
elaborate forms representing three domains, the nature, and two from
man’s world, architecture and warfare. Another unit, far tinier than
the this, representing nature’s live aspect, works as the loop for
joining each two main units. The main unit’s base – the reverse,
comprising four tiny rings soldered together to make a four-petalled
flower represents nature. A tiny flattish dome – the most dominating
component of the unit, a form of architecture, is the super-structure
that surmounts this flower-base. Each unit has in the centre on its
bottom an arrow-head shaped tiny pendant suspending along with a ring
loop. An arrow-head form is reminiscent of early warfare. There mounts
over the junction of each two of these units an artistic loop-form
resembling a honey-bee, nature’s other aspect, sucking on the flower.
The pair of rectangular loops under the weaver’s bobbin-like looking
body of the honey bee that join the two units looks like its legs.
This strange-looking parallelism, or symbolic stretch, is not too
far-fetched or unrealistic as it looks. It might be difficult to
accept a tiny bead form as representing a dome, the most dominating
part of a building, a mosque, mausoleum, temple or castle, but a
jeweler would have its form only in proportion to his ornament, not
otherwise. The most fascinating component of architecture a jeweler
cannot be barred from using a dome form when casting an ornament.
Flower, large or tiny, is one of the most copied forms in any form of
art. Honey-bee, at least in context to a flower, has often been the
popular theme of romantic poetry and hence of other arts. Arrow,
associated with gods and many national heroes, has in India a mythical
status and hence its form, obviously its head or blade part, has often
been copied in arts, jewellery being among them. What breeds
non-acceptance of these forms is the fact that in ages old traditions
forms have often conventionalised beyond recognition and sometimes
even one who is reproducing a form does not know what he is
reproducing. In utmost traditional designs this phenomenon, as here,
is more common.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.
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