Thewa is a unique technique of ornamentation from Pratapgarh in Rajasthan. In Rajasthan-Hindi thewa means “setting”. Brilliant and beautiful pieces are made, apparently by melting a thick layer of green glass on a plate of burnished gold and, while it is still hot, setting in it gold foil cut into mythological,raga-ragini, hunting, or other pleasure scenes with beautifully delicate depictions of flowers, elephants, tigers, peacocks, deer, etc. After the glass has hardened the gold work is etched with fine tools to bring out the details. In some cases a glass surface was engraved and then gold foil rubbed into the pattern and fixed by fire. This is a rough account of the thewa process given by researchers, but the thewa craftsmen never revealed all the details of their skill to anyone. The art was confined to a few families, a son learning it from his father. Daughters were never allowed to enter the workshops; the technique was never revealed to them so that it would remain a family secret.
Thewa objects include pieces of jewellery like pendants, earrings, belts, etc. and also trays, rosewater sprinklers, card boxes, cigarette boxes, and vases which were specially made for the European market.
This card table is a unique piece. It is made of moulded silver and set with pieces of thewa work. The top of the table has six square thewa pieces while the sides have rectangular pieces. They have intricate designs in gold foil on green glass depicting royal hunting scenes in typical Rajasthani style. It is interesting to note the machans (structures for hunting) and the matchlock guns in the hands of hunters which were very popular in the early 18th–19th century. Depictions of such royal hunts are also found in many paintings of Kota. Ragini Todi is depicted on one side of the table.
There is also an inscription in Devanagari, “Soni Pannalal Champalal, Deogarh Pratapgarh”. This is the name of the artist. One of the family at Pratapgarh whose members were masters of this technique called themselves Raj Sonis. The artist of our piece perhaps belonged to the same family.
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection.
Indian Decorative Art
Gold and Silver
19th Century CE
29 x 17.5 x 20.5 cm