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Shah Jahan's Jade Wine Cup

Listed under Works of Art in London, United Kingdom.

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Shah Jahan, the fifth leader of the Mughal Empire, is probably best known for building the Taj Mahal for his wife, and to many it represents the peak of a period of immense achievement in Mughal art and architecture. Extravagant buildings, a jewelled throne, ornate, expensive clothes and uniquely precious everyday items marked his reign.

One of these was an exquisite wine cup carved from a single piece of the palest, purest nephrite jade – extremely tough material, but almost transparent – and as delicate and shimmering as pearl. It was made for him in 1657 by one of many craftsmen employed in his court, and takes stylised images from several cultures to form a wonderful whole.

It is in the shape of a small gourd ( a Chinese tradition) with shell-like striations across its outer surface, and bears a European Acanthus to the front and a slim, curving handle, ending in a minutely detailed ram’s head and neck, horns spiralling back and tiny beard joining back to the cup. A six-petalled Indian lotus flower faces downwards to form the base, making the cup an object of beauty from every angle, and as far distant from a modern wine glass as anything imaginable.

The jade pieces of the Mughal empire are singled out for the quality of the craftsmanship applied to the material which, when properly worked, can express nuances of texture and movement that are impossible to achieve in stone and many other mediums. This one is the most highly regarded of all.

This piece now makes London's Victoria and Albert Museum its home.

Written by  larapiegeler.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

What is the size of this cup?

1 Reply

It's about 15-20cms in size across the largest bit in the photo.

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