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Arts of Asia

The MFAH collections of art from China, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia reflect Houston’s diverse communities. Ancient and contemporary works are displayed together to create innovative juxtapositions.


Fly Whisk (Chauri)
Mid-18th century

37 x 115 x 14 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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Arts of Asia

This ornate fly whisk was carved from a single elephant tusk. From its shaved brush to the delicate bud that adorns the base of the handle, it exemplifies the creative and artistic flowering that characterized India’s Mughal period.  

Though this fly whisk dates to the middle of the 18th century, just after the fall of the Mughal dynasty, it is covered with images and motifs often found in Mughal court art, such as blooming poppies and graceful cypress branches. Its intricately decorated surface embodies the refined Mughal aesthetic from the delicate lines that form each flower petal to the shaving technique used to create the long, thin strings of the brush.  

Fly whisks were often associated with religious ritual in both Hinduism and Buddhism, where they became associated with brushing away troublesome thoughts and earthly worries. Ornate and beautiful fly whisks such as this one thus came to be associated with power, divinity, and royal authority in both Hindu and Muslim courts.