Mughal or Deccan, India
Carved from nephrite jade (middle-light green) with a spherical chamber and a rim at the top inlaid with red foil backed rock crystal in a sunburst motif, flanked on either side with delicately carved handles, in a poppy and acanthus leaf design.
Spittoons are often shaped like miniature washbasins and are an indispensable accessory to the custom of chewing betel nut (paan), eaten to settle the stomach and refresh the mouth after meals, and stimulate the flow of saliva. The wide rim is to catch the saliva, and the small chamber beneath is to hold it.
Spittoons were called pikdan in North India, and ugaldan in the Deccan.
Indian miniature paintings from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, often depict refined life styles and tastes of princes and noblemen by showing them relaxing on terraces with huqqas, pandans and spittoons laid out before them on the floor.
The spherical shaped spittoon was one of the earliest forms, emerging in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and surviving examples in this shape are much rarer than huqqas or pandans. A hard stone spittoon as our example is even rarer to find.