Sunday, February 4, 2018

Lost Treasure of Middle Age India - Peacock Throne

The Peacock Throne was a famous jeweled throne that was the seat of the Mughal emperors of India. It was commissioned in the early 17th century by emperor Shah Jahan and was located in the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences) in the Red Fort of Delhi.


How did it look

The descriptions of Lahori, from before 1648, and Tavernier's, published in 1676, are generally in broad agreement on the most important features of the thrones, such as its rectangular shape, standing on four legs at its corners, the 12 columns on which the canopy rests, and the type of gemstones embedded on the throne, such as balas rubies, emeralds, pearls, diamonds, and other coloured stones. There are however some significant differences between the two descriptions:

    Tavernier was allowed to closely inspect the throne and its jewels and wrote the most well known detailed description to date.

    In his account, Tavernier gave details of the design in which the balas rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and pearls were arranged on the four horizontal bars connecting the four vertical legs, from which the 12 vertical columns, supporting the canopy, arose. In the middle of each bar, a large cabochon-cut balas ruby was placed, surrounded by four emeralds forming a square cross. Smaller such square crosses were situated on either side of the central large cross, along the length of the bar, but arranged in such a way that while in one square cross a balas ruby occupied the center, surrounded by four emeralds, in the next square cross, an emerald was surrounded by four balas rubies. The emeralds were table-cut and the intervals between the emerald-and-ruby crosses, were covered with diamonds, also table-cut and not exceeding 10 to 12 carats in weight.
     There were three cushions or pillows upon the throne. The one placed behind the emperor's back was large and round; the other two, placed at his sides, were flat. The cushions were also studded with gems. Tavernier mentioned some royal standards and weapons that were suspended from the throne, such as a mace, a sword and a round shield, and a bow and quiver with arrows, all studded with gemstones.

     He counted the number of large balas rubies and emeralds on the throne. Accordingly, there were 108 large balas rubies on the throne, all cabochon-cut, the smallest weighing around 100 carats and the largest over 200 carats in weight. He counted 116 large emeralds on the throne, all of excellent colour, but with many flaws (a characteristic feature of emeralds), the smallest weighing around 30 carats and the largest around 60 carats.The underside of the canopy was covered with diamonds and pearls, with a fringe of pearls all round.
     On the side of the throne facing the court was suspended a diamond of 80 to 90 carats in weight, with rubies and emeralds surrounding it. When the Emperor was seated on the throne, this suspended arrangement of jewels was in full view in front of him.Tavernier then wrote about two large gem-studded royal umbrellas, which were not part of the throne, but were placed on either side of the throne, at a distance of 4 feet from it. The central stems of these umbrellas, 7 to 8 feet long, were covered with diamonds, rubies, and pearls. The cloth of the umbrella was made of red velvet, and embroidered and fringed all round with pearls. The height of these umbrellas might give an indication as to the height of the throne, which was probably of the same height. Thus, the height of the throne would have been around 7 to 10 feet.

    What was the last know place of the throne

     After Nader Shah looted the original, another throne was made for the Mughal emperor. Along with the Peacock Throne, Nader had also taken the fabulous Koh-i Noor and Darya-i Noor diamonds to Persia, where some became part of the Persian crown jewels, and others were sold to the Ottomans. The plunder taken by Nader was so great that he stopped taxation for 3 years. The bottom half of the Peacock Throne might have been converted into the Sun Throne also a part of the Persian crown jewels. Various 19th-century Indian paintings of this later throne exist. It was located in the Diwan-i-Khas and might have been smaller in size than the original. However, the appearance would have been similar, based on either the original plans or from memory and eye-witness accounts. The replacement throne was made out of gold, or was gilded, and was studded with precious and semi-precious stones. Just like the original, it featured 12 columns. The columns carried a Bengali do-chala roof, which was graced with two peacock statues on the two ends, carrying pearl necklaces in their beaks, and two peacocks at the top, also carrying pearl necklaces in their beaks. The two lower peacocks were in the center underneath a flower bouquet made out of jewels, or under a royal umbrella. This throne was protected by a canopy made out of precious and colorful textiles, and gold and silver threads. The canopy was carried by four slender columns or beams made out of metal. Underneath the throne, colorful and precious carpets were laid out

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