2. Satinwood and Ivory Work Box

India | c. 1855

Attributed to Shedashboodoo.

Height: 7” (18cms)
Width: 11” (28cms)
Depth: 8 ¼” (21.25cms

Veneered with satinwood, partly carved and partly veneered with ivory, engraved and highlighted with lac. The box is sarcophagus-shaped, the exterior edges mounted with ivory borders with intertwining and undulating foliage. The raised central panel of the lid is fluted in a sunburst pattern with alternating satinwood and ivory segments with a carved ivory lotus mounted at the centre. At the front centre of the box is a keyhole with brass surround. There is a compartment to the underside of the lid mounted at the centre with a carved ivory lotus, within an engraved border. The interior is fitted with a detachable tray that is divided into twelve compartments. These include: three compartments with engraved ivory-veneered lids and carved lotus-shaped ivory knobs; one slender compartment containing miniature book cover with engraved ivory-veneered lid and carved lotus-shaped ivory knob; a compartment with an ivory spool; five wells and two compartments with maroon velvet pin cushions. The tray conceals a storage compartment. The inner edges of the lid and box are faced with engraved ivory borders with silvered hinges and mounts. The box stands on four fluted ivory bun feet.

The workbox provides an insight into the skills thought necessary for a young woman until quite recent times. The daughters of prosperous families were raised to be wives and mothers with their education focusing on artistic accomplishments such as needlework, painting, drying and pressing flowers, keeping a journal, music and poetry. Skill in embroidery was considered to be an important attribute which in turn became a popular pastime.

One can imagine an official’s wife in British India sitting with her needlework, her workbox beside her, while her punkawallah fanned her. Accordingly the workbox became a much cherished possession which explains the artistry and expense lavished upon it by the craftsmen of British India.

For similar example see No. 55 Amin Jaffer’s ‘Furniture from British India and Ceylon’.

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