Oppi Untracht bequest
The American jewellery historian, teacher, and trained metalworker and jeweller, Oppi Untracht, who died in 2008, bequeathed to the V&A his collection of 19th and 20th century Indian silver jewellery and his Nepalese metalwork. He also bequeathed to the museum, with which he had a long association, his archival photographs taken in India and Nepal in the 1950s and 1960s when he was awarded two Fulbright grants to study metalworking and jewellery there.
His training and lifelong interests made his text books essential reading for conservators and curators in jewellery, while his years of research in India and Nepal enabled him to add uniquely important sections on specialist techniques found there. Metal Techniques for Craftsmen was published in 1968 and Jewelry Concepts and Technology in 1982 - both are as useful and widely read today as when they first appeared. His major study of Traditional Indian Jewelry, published in 2000, embodies 35 years of research and surveys the ornaments of the entire subcontinent. Some of the pieces illustrated in the book are in the bequest, which also includes some of the intaglio brass-stamping dies that are an essential part of a traditional Indian jeweller's workshop.
The 40 metal objects made in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal date mostly to the 18th and 19th century. These were collected during the years 1962 to 1967 either during trips to Nepal, or while Oppi Untracht lived in the country (1963-67), and include a range of domestic and ritual vessels. The pieces are of excellent quality and demonstrate the renowned casting and repoussé skills of the Newar metalworkers of the Kathmandu Valley. Among the more typical cast forms are several highly unusual objects such as a birdcage hook in the form of two peacocks, a finial for a boy monk's staff, and a dance mask of Bhairava, the fierce form of the Hindu deity Shiva, inset with imitation stones.
The bequest is currently being catalogued, and the contents of the archive listed, by curators in the Asian Department.