8 • A Highly Decorated Sitar

North India, early to mid-19th century
117 cm long; brass, bone, calabash, paint,
wood (probably walnut or teak)

Like the painted tambura (no. 7), the owner of this instrument would have been a very high ranking aristocrat and committed music patron.

Front: Two bejewelled dancers, surrounded by flowers and each flanked by a parrot made of inlaid bone – a symbol in Indian mythology of Kama, the god of love and desire.

Neck: At the top is an exceptionally elegant and bejewelled man – quite possibly a portrait of the music patron who commissioned this instrument – smelling a flower. Two musicians and a dancer perform below him.

Back: A tiger-hunting scene, which would suggest the origin of this instrument as North Indian, with possibly the Himalayan foothills in the background and the patron himself again portrayed in the scene, to the left.