This bowl exemplifies the refinement of jade carving reached at the Mughal court. Its decoration finds parallels with an example in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, inv. no.M.76.2.2), attributed to circa 1640-50, also carved with a large overlapping petalled lotus flowerhead acting as a foot and acanthus leaves leading to buds on either side. The museum catalogue links the use of acanthus leaves to a Western tradition originating with Greek Corinthian columns which were assimilated in the Gandharan region fusing local and Greco-Roman traditions. They re-appear in the Mughal visual vocabulary following the arrival of Jesuit missionaries at Akbar's court in 1580, who brought with them European illustrated books and engravings of Christian subjects and persisted into the seventeenth century and later periods. The naturalism of the carved foliate motifs on this jade bowl are presented as both formal and delicate, testifying to the historic relationship of the Mughals with the floral and natural world.
The jade in this instance is used to highlight the carving, and the mottling deliberately fuses with the forms represented. Jade was mentioned in the Islamic world as early as the eighth century and traditionally associated with curing digestive ailments. It is noted in early sources as coming from Khotan in the region along the silk road forming present-day Northwest China (R. Pinder-Wilson in Markel 1992, p.35). The polymath Al-Biruni (972-1048) wrote extensively on jade in his treaty on precious stones for the Ghaznavid Sultan Mawdud (d.1050). Under the Mughals, jade craftsmanship reached its apex under two emperors, Jahangir (r.1658-1707) and Shah Jahan (r.1628-58) although earlier accounts testify to the presence of jade at the Mughal court under the Emperor Akbar. It is recorded in the Akbarnameh of Abu'l-Fazl that the Central Asian jade merchant Khwaja Mu’in visited the court in 1563 (Markel 1992, p.52). Another account, this time in 1609 by an English merchant, William Hawkins, reported that the royal treasury at Agra contained “some twenty-five kilograms of uncut jade and five hundred drinking cups, that included fifty elaborate ones made of a single piece of jade or other precious minerals” (ibid.).