Bronze Palanquin Leopard Finial

  • This bronze palanquin finial of a leopard was crafted at the turn of the 19th century
  • Palanquin, or palki, were key modes of transportation in India for centuries
  • This finial would have been placed on the pole ends that supported the passenger compartment
  • Several prestigious museums contain palanquin finials in their collections
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 30-6263

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Taking the form of a fierce leopard is this rare palanquin bronze finial crafted at the turn of the 19th century. Palanquin, or “palki”, are litter-type conveyances that have been in use in India for centuries. This bronze finial would have adorned the pole ends that were used to support and carry the passenger compartment. 

The word “palanquin” is derived from the Sanskrit “palanki” meaning “bed” or “couch”. These lushly covered conveyances were intended to be carried by four to eight bearers known as “behara”, “dulia”, “boyee” or “behara” depending on the region. The interiors were furnished with specialized bedding materials, including pillows to provide the utmost comfort while traveling. Though the earliest mention of palanquin dates to the 3rd century BCE in the epic poem Ramayana, the height of usage occurred during the Mughal era from the 16th through 19th centuries. It wasn't until the advent of railways and roadways that could accommodate wheeled modes of transportation that the use of palanquin fell out of favor. Today, these bygone conveyances are used in ceremonies such as weddings. 

The ornamentation and complexity palanquin was directly related to social status. The finals also abided by this convention, but these adornments also reflected whether the owner was male or female. Flowers, particularly lotuses, and birds were the typical forms found on women’s palanquin, while those for men often featured fierce animals and creatures from Indian mythology and folklore.

Similar palanquin finials can be found in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Heritage Transport Museum in Taoru, India has an entire exhibit devoted to palanquin with varied finials on display.

Circa 1800

8 1/4" length x 6" wide x 5" high
Bronze Palanquin Leopard Finial
Period: 19th Century
Origin: Asia
Type: Historical Memorabilia
Depth: 8.25 Inches
Length: 8
Width: 6.0 Inches
Height: 5.0 Inches

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