A five-drawer cabinet richly and meticulously decorated with Sadeli mosaics, West India, 16th century. Ebony, teak, exotic woods, ivory, copper.
This piece belongs to one of the first identifiable groups of furniture made in India under Portuguese patronage in the 16th century.
Cabinets of this type were designed to contain personal effects and were a basic requirement of European merchants and traders living and traveling in Asia.
The production of these cabinets was based in West India, a long-time hub of luxury goods where there were firmly established merchant communities from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Far East. and Europe. Contemporary accounts differ as to the exact place of manufacture of these items, possibly suggesting that there were several centers in western India working in related styles and sharing methods of production: at Tatta, Sindh, " ornamental desks, drawing boards, writing desks and the like are locally made; they are very nicely inlaid with ivory and ebony "and were once exported to Goa and the coastal towns; but also the neighboring region of Gujarat is indicated as an important center in the production of fine inlaid furniture: in Surat, one of the main ports of Gujarat, "it was possible to buy 'scrutores or cabinets' of ebony, ivory and mother-of-pearl, carefully polished and embellished ".
Regardless of their exact place of manufacture, it is clear that cabinets of this type were made in western India and were marketed both locally and in Europe, where their exotic materials and decoration are said to have ensured. their high esteem. As with other goods destined for Europe, these cabinets were frequently traded via Goa.
Although western in form, the cabinets were also used by Indians, as evident from the decoration of the margin (hashiya) on a miniature from the Shah Jahan period in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, in which it is possible to see such a cabinet used to store jewelry.
The decorative technique called "Sadeli mosaic" is a type of micro mosaic characterized by repeated geometric patterns. A highly specialized craft that has a long history in India and the Middle East, the earliest examples dating back to the 16th century.
The ancient Sadeli mosaic art is said to have been introduced from Shiraz to Persia via Sindh and Bombay, long before the appearance of Indian boxes. The designs on the first boxes seem deceptively simple. The point is that they emerged from a culture that had dominated geometry and figured out how to generate a model from a number of points. The models are so harmoniously combined that their incredible complexity is not immediately noticeable by the viewer.
Similar models can be found at the V&A Museum in London.
Indian luxury goods: the art of Indian cabinetmaker / Amin Jaffer. London: V&A Publications.
L cm 36.5
H cm 23.5
P cm 24.5
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