A pierced iron south Indian ankus | Mandarin Mansion

A pierced iron south Indian ankus

A pierced iron ankus

Overall length: 38.9 cm
Head length: 15.8 cm
Weight: 676 grams

Origin: India
Materials: Steel, brass
Dating: 19th century


Description

A south Indian pierced iron elephant goad or ankus. Such hooks are used by the mahout (the keepers, trainers and drivers of elephants) to control elephants. The elephant was a huge beast, only those of considerable wealth could afford elephants and thus the ankus was also some sort of a status symbol.

This piece is made with a thick double-edged point, with openwork center panel. To one side protrudes a recurved hook, also with reinforced thickened tip. Edges and blade surface of the hook are all engraved with palmate motifs. The center panel is elaborately pierced and chiseled. Its decoration consists of fantastic designs of various animals, mythical and existing, some morphed together. Two parakeets in the top and two elephant heads can be made out. Another pair of animals is dog-like, while a last pair resembled two makara.

The tapering steel handle is divided in sections by five ribs. The pommel consists of a brass butt piece in the shape of a stylized tiger's head from whose mouth emerges another dog-like creature.


Comparable examples

This piece is part of an illustrious group of very similar pieces.

Metropolitan Museum
One was owned by the famous William Ockelford Oldman of London who sold it to George C. Stone, who published it in his "Glossary" and bequeathed it to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, where it remains under accession number 36.25.1868. The piece has been on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum for the exhibit: "Maharaja: the splendour of India's royal courts" which ran from October 2009 - January 2010.
This piece is catalogued as 17th century.



The Walters Art Museum
Another example was in the Lockwood De Forest Collection. Acquired by Henry Walters in 1922, who bequeathed it to the Walters Art Museum, 1931. It remains there under accession number 23102.
This piece is also catalogued as 17th century.



Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore
Yet another example is in the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore. Purchased in 1998, probably from Christies. It is kept under accession number 1998-01399.
This piece is catalogued as 17th - 18th century.



National Galleries of Australia
Our final museum reference piece is another remarkably similar piece that was donated to the National Galleries of Australia by Elaine and Jim
Wolfensohn. Wolfensohn is economist, investment banker and former ninth president of the World Bank Group. See it here.
This piece is catalogued as being from the 19th to early 20th century.


Attribution & dating

As for dating, most museums date it at the 17th century but personally I cannot find any reason why it would be that old. It seems more likely to me that they were 19th century pieces, made to be carried on official assemblies and / or parades. The pieces are all fairly small, most notably shorter than most practical ankus which make me think it's a ceremonial, rather than a practical piece. Wearing this ankus possibly conveyed a certain status. Elephants were expensive, and dangerous assets in the field. Those who controlled them well were of considerable importance, and trusted with important tasks during processions, hunting, and warfare. These under-sized ankus may have been emblems of rank carried by such persons when not on the elephant, for example when assembling in a durbar, a public official reception.


Condition

Very good condition. No damage. Only some age-related staining and pitting.


Conclusion

A nice example of an elephant goad or ankus, part of a group of pieces that are in notable museums.



Price on request



Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

A pierced iron ankus

Like it? Share!