Howdah (Primary Title)
Elephant Saddle (Translation)

Unknown (Artist)

Educational
ca. 1896-1917
Indian
silver, gilded silver, wood, velvet, glass, paint
Chhattisgarh, former princely state of Surguja, India
Overall (howdah): 26 × 57 1/2 × 40 1/2 in. (66.04 × 146.05 × 102.87 cm)
Other (parasol, furled): 47 1/2 × 13 in. (120.65 × 33.02 cm)
2004.17a-b

 This spectacular object is a howdah, a thronelike saddle placed on the back of an elephant. Opulent silver-clad howdahs were popular with the princes who ruled British India’s small states between the 18th and 20th centuries. Seated high atop an elephant on a mobile throne was the grandest—and safest—way a ruler could move through the throngs at lavish public processions marking coronations, royal birthdays, and other dynastic events. Part of an Indian ruler’s display of grandeur, state howdahs were often outrageously showy works of art intended to overwhelm, delight, and entertain.

Robert A. and Ruth W. Fisher Fund
Barriault, Anne B., and Kay M. Davidson. Selections from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond, VA: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007. (pp 178-179)

"100 Top Treasures," Arts and Antiques, Vol. XXVII, No. 10, November 2004. p. 72, color ill.

"An 'In-Your-Face' Exhibit" News India-Times, July 16, 2004, p. 28. b&w ill.

"An 'In Your Face' Exhibit" News India Times, 16 July 2004, p. 28, ill.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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