Published Jul 15 2013, by

Tusk with roundels of paired birds

The decorative use of ivory in India dates from the earliest eras of human history. Of indigenous origin, the gleaming white material quickly gained widespread popularity for its rarity, properties, and aesthetic appeal. It was used extensively for the fine and decorative arts, especially during the Mughal period (1526–1857), when the sophisticated tastes of the Persian Muslim elite fueled artistic production across several disciplines.

This tusk is an example of the ornate relief-carving techniques often employed for ivory sculptures. The smooth white surface, slightly yellowed over time, has been deeply carved in the round with an avian theme expressed in several ordered rows of roundels. Each roundel encapsulates a quaint scene of paired birds amid a leafy landscape, and the spaces between each roundel are decorated with naturalistic flowers and plants. The underside of the tusk is carved with a finely detailed feather pattern, and the larger end is decorated with paired peacocks and surrounded by a stylized circular border. Solid tusks such as this were often used as decorative accents on furniture that had architectural components or inlays similarly fashioned out of ivory.