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South Indian Carved Wooden Box

South India
circa 1850

length: 39cm, width: 13cm, height: 8.6cm



UK antique market

This box, of darkened wood, in a mid-19th century style similar to woodcarving that was undertaken in south India, has a hinged lid carved with what appears to be the ‘churning of the sea of milk’ (Samudra Manthan) from Hindu mythology. Vishnu, in the form of the turtle Kurma, can be seen at the bottom of the centre of the panel. The sides are carved with scrolling foliage interspersed by the occasional figure or animal.

The box has a wonderful, glowing patina. There is an old, stable but small shrinkage-related crack of about two centimetres long to the lid, and an old chip to the lower back corner of the box (see an image below.) The lid closes well and evenly. There is a space for a lock but it is unlikely that one was ever fitted.

It is possible that a box of these dimensions was intended to house a palm leaf manuscript.


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.

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