This very fine box, probably a games box, is in exceptional condition. It is of sandalwood clad in ivory veneer. The ivory has been extensively and finely engraved with floral and foliate borders and panels of architectural scenes. The engraving work has then been darkened with lac. Importantly, the architectural scenes are on all four sides as well as the lid.
The box sits on four feet that also are clad in ivory. There is a brass lock and the original key.
The hinged lid opens to reveal a sandalwood interior with compartments for writing implements. Two ‘secret’ drawers pull out with the aid of string pulls with attached beads.
The decoration on this box with the fantastical architectural scenes within dense floral and leaf borders is typical of Vizagapatam work of the 1780s and early 1790s (Jaffer, 2001, p. 204.) The scenes were based on Dutch and other European engravings of European buildings and plans for buildings. The engravings became the basis of stylised and fantasy representations in the hands of the Vizagapatam craftsmen.
Such a box would have been considered a show piece and placed on a table in a prominent place. Such items were produced in Vizagapatam on India’s Coromandel Coast for export to Europe.
Click here for a similar box of similar size sold at Christie’s Paris in 2012. Tchakaloff (1998, p. 78) illustrates a small desk which has similar decoration to the box here.
The box here is in near perfect condition. There is some fritting to the ivory corners but no warping and no significant losses to the ivory. Nor are there any obvious repairs. All the internal compartments and dividers are present bar one. The lid fits perfectly. Overall, it is a very fine example.
Jaffer, A., Furniture from British India and Ceylon: A Catalogue of the Collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, Timeless Books, 2001.
Jaffer, A., Luxury Goods from India: The Art of the Indian Cabinet Maker, V&A Publications, 2002.
Tchakaloff, T.N. et al, La Route des Indes – Les Indes et L’Europe: Echanges Artistiques et Heritage Commun 1650-1850, Somagy Editions d’Art, 1998.