Description & Technical information

Important parallelepiped small casket with three faceted cambered lid, an european typology most copied by Gujarati cabinet-makers either in mother-of-pearl or in tortoiseshell.
The present example is decorated in an elegant fish-scale mosaic of "Turbo marmoratus" tesserae, each side framed by a oarder of rectangular pearl oyster shell fragments, possibly from "Pintata maxima". On the lid, identically framed, a decorative pettern of equilateral triangle bands. The rare 16th century silver mounts, consisting of lock, side and top handles and hinges of obvious architectural inspiration were probably made in Lisbon.
The Indian origin of this production, centred in the area between the cities of Cambay and Surat, in the northern state of Gujarat, is plainly confirmed by the abundance of documentary evidence, and by surviving 16th century wooden structures coated in mother-of-pearl tesserae.
Originally commissioned and imported by the Portuguese, the first of such objects to arrive in Lisbon were most certainly destined to the Royal House, courtiers and princely collections as recorded in centemporary inventories. The first documented pieces seem to be those listed in the inventory of King Manuel I (r. 1495-1521) Royal Wardrobe, collated after the King's death: "A mother-of-pearl inlaid Indian casket with eighteen silver plaques" (Hu cofre da Imdia marchetado de raiz daljofre com dezoito chapas de prata).

Date:  2nd half of 16th century
Period:  1400-1600, 16th Century
Origin:  India, Gujarat
Medium: Teak, Mother-of-pearl, silver
Dimensions: 9.8 x 14.8 x 9.6 cm (3⁹/₁₀ x 5⁴/₅ x 3⁴/₅ inches)
Provenance: A.H.O. collection, Lisbon
Categories: Oriental and Asian Art