Hookah base

DATE:
17th century
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Zinc alloy "Bidri ware" inlaid with gold
CLASSIFICATION:
Tools and Equipment
DIMENSIONS:
Overall: 6 1/2 x 7 1/4 x 7 1/4 in. (16.51 x 18.42 x 18.42 cm) Height: 6 in. (15.24 cm) Diameter: 7 1/4 in. (18.42 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of Asia
LOCATION:
303 ISLAMIC GALLERY
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alconda-Owsley Foundation
COPYRIGHT:
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art
OBJECT NUMBER:
2000.406

General Description

A hookah is a water pipe used for smoking tobacco or other narcotics. This hookah base is made in the bidri technique, originating in central India. The pro­cess of creating Bidri ware occurs in several steps. First, pieces of precious metal are inlaid into the zinc surface. Once the inlay is complete, the entire piece is blackened by applying a chemical paste that affects the zinc but not the inlay. The result, after the paste is removed, is brightly shining inlay that stands in contrast to the deep black of the zinc. Finally the entire piece is rubbed with oil to enhance the black­ness of the zinc. Here gold has been used, making this piece very valuable, but more often silver is used for inlay. In some rare instances combinations of gold and silver tones are employed.

Adapted from

  • DMA Label text.

  • Catherine Asher, "Hookah base," in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 120.