Rare Wood Figure of a Peacock in Display

Indian, probably Lahore,

Carbon 14 dated 1725-1815CE

Height 47 inches, Width 35 inches

Of naturalistic form made in sections joined with dowels, some later metal repairs


A Peacock - the resplendent male of the species - stands with wings outstretched and arched tail performing his mating display. In India from ancient times down to the present, the peacock has been seen as a companion and vehicle for the gods, and as a symbol of Indian royalty and kings. Its mating dance, taking place in the rainy season, is symbolic of the time each year when the earth and even life itself undergo a renewal. Peacocks in every conceivable medium and material, make an appearance on Indian architecture, sculpture, furniture, in painting, jewelry, carpets, textiles, vessels and musical instruments.

A wooden figure of this considerable size might be suitable as a vehicle or seat for an image to be taken out in festival processions, but from the back, where the material is broadly blocked in shape and devoid of any detail, it is apparent that this peacock was never intended to be viewed on all sides. It could hardly have functioned as a Vahana or vehicle for the gods. The figure, from the akimbo placement of its wings and the flattening of the volumes at the back, has been designed to make its best effect in a position standing against a wall. It serves purely as an object of decoration and pleasure.


The peacock carving for all its lifelike vigor shows very little sign of foreign influence. The stylized and heraldic posture of the bird with its frontal wings and bifurcated tail (next to the wingtips on the base), and the expressively quirky head - equal parts smile and grimace -  are authentically Indian. The feathered mono-brow and ruff, are exotic touches which seem positively archaic to western eyes.