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This large white marble rectangular box has been decorated on the cover and sides with very fine pietra-dura stone inlay work of a type usually done near Agra, northern India. The small slithers of turquoise, malachite and other stones have been inset into the surface of the marble, arrayed as floral and leafy scrolls.
The box sits on four legs and has a lift-off lid with bevelled edges.
The interior is lined with red velvet and fine gold zardozi couching work.
The underside of the lid has a polychrome inscription the reads: ‘Presented to His Excellency Sir William Malcolm Hailey GCIE, KCSI, Governor of U.P. by the Chairman & Members, District Boards, Agra, 24-XI-28’.
Sir William Hailey (b. 1872-1969; later Lord Harley and 1st Baron Hailey) was the Governor of the Punjab from 1924 to 1928, and Governor of the United Provinces of India from 1928 to 1934. In 1937 he was elected President of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and in 1948, he was made a member of the Privy Council.
The tradition of pietra-dura inlay work originated in Agra after the construction of the Taj Mahal (1627-1658) in the vicinity which is similarly decorated, and had a number of subsequent revivals. The white marble itself comes not from Agra but Jaipur but was inlaid by artisans in Agra.
The box and its interior are in excellent condition.
Below: The Taj Mahal, and a section of the facade of the Taj Mahal showing pietra-dura borders.
Birdwood, G., The Industrial Arts of India, 1880.
Watt, G., Indian Art at Delhi 1903, Being the Official Catalogue of the Delhi Exhibition, 1902-1903, Superintendent of Government Printing, India, 1903.