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A thali pendant

Number

M20.019

Origin

India, Tamil Nadu

Time

Late 19th or early 20th century

Technique

Casting, forging, chasing, engraving, openwork carving

Material

Gold

Dimensions

Length 170 mm; width 35 mm

The gold pendant consists of numerous rigidly joined elements including one upper and two lower spire-like rods each terminating in an octahedron. The central element is an openwork panel depicting the sited goddess Lakshmi on a lotus flower and a pair of antelopes amid the scrolling foliage. Two straight straps with toothed outer edges flank the panel. The upper part includes a pair of recessed antelopes and two cast figures of celestial maidens or apsaras, pursued by lions. In addition, the pendant is decorated with chased floral motifs, beaded borders, rosettes, palmettes, flowers, leaves and birds.

COMMENT. Thali is a Hindu women's marriage ornament, which is especially popular in South India. This is the main element of the traditional marriage necklace, which is presented to the bride by the groom during the wedding ceremony. The ornament is made of gold or silver in a great variety of shapes and sizes. The concrete design is usually chosen by the groom’s family in keeping with their customs and capabilities. The woman wears thali throughout her life not only as a sign of marriage, but also as an auspicious amulet, which is believed to be able to protect a married couple from the evil eye, and also to ensure a long life and prosperity of her husband. Such wedding ornaments, widespread in India, are known by various names. The presented pendant is not only of high quality, but also unusually large in size. Judging by the characteristic design, it belonged to a Tamil woman from a wealthy Nattukottai Chettiar community based in the Chettinad region of the present-day state of Tamil Nadu in South India. The pendant was part of the women's marriage necklace called "kalithiru", "kaluthiru" or "kazhutthuru", A similar pendant can be seen in the Dallas Museum of Art, USA (inv. no. 1999.168, see Bromberg, A.R. The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art. – New Haven & London, 2013. – P. 135, no. 69). For other comparable examples, see Christie’s: Arts of India. Monday 1 October 2012, London, South Kensington: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2012. – Lot 15; Lempertz: Auktion 1053. Asiatische Kunst = Asian Art: 3/5 Juni 2015, Köln: [Auktionskatalog]. – Köln, 2015. – Los 546; Untracht, O. Traditional Jewelry of India. – London, 2008. – P. 169, no. 308.