A late 18th century Vizagapatam ivory inlaid work and games box
Lot 112Y
A late 18th century Vizagapatam ivory inlaid work and games box
Sold for £8,125 (US$ 12,229) inc. premium

Lot Details
A late 18th century Vizagapatam ivory inlaid work and games box
A late 18th century Vizagapatam ivory inlaid work and games box
The hinged top centred by the initial D within a cartouche and enclosing a mirror to the lid lining and a removable tray elaborately fitted with lidded compartments including accessories, with a well beneath containing a folding chess and backgammon board incorporating sandalwood and ebony inlay together with a pair of rectangular boxes containing chess and draught pieces, the front with a pull-out writing drawer revealing compartments enclosed by a blue velvet-lined writing slope, with folding white metal cabriole, on supports, on shaped bracket feet and with white metal carrying handles to the sides, the whole inlaid with engraved trailing leaf borders, and flowers, 46cm wide, 35cm deep, 22cm high (18" wide, 13.5" deep, 8.5" high).


  • Provenance:
    By descent through the present owner's family since 1795

    The restrained neo-classical decoration of the above lot is typical of the decoration that became popular in Vizagapatam in the closing years of the 18th century as the exotic motifs where shed in favour of a style of decoration more in line with current European fashions. Two games boxes with this refined neo-classical decoration were purchased by Lady Clive on her visit to Vizagapatam in 1801. The use of initials within the decoration seems also to have been a recurrent feature amongst pieces with this form of decoration; Richard Wellesley Governor General of India (between 1798-1805) sent his wife Hyacinthe a travelling desk bearing her initials H.C.W and Lieutenant-Colonel George Roberts acquired a toilet glass inscribed with the intials H.C.W which is now in the collection of the V&A Museum, London and is illustrated in A.Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon, London, 2001, p.207, pl.51

    Comparative Literature:
    A.Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon, London, 2001, pp. 193-221
    A.Jaffer, Ivory-inlaid and veneered furniture of Vizagapatam, India,' The Magazine Antiques, February, 2001, pp. 342-349.

    The box offered here belongs to a group of furniture and related smaller objects produced in the Indian town of Vizagapatam situated on the south east coast of India in proximity to the city of Madras to the South. It operated as a principle trading port from the 17th century due to its position on the major trading routes between Europe and the Far East. Vizagapatam was ideally located as a manufacturing centre with its harbour facilitating the transport of indigenous exotic timbers and materials including teak rosewood, ebony and ivory. Its proximity to Madras and Calcutta was also advantageous as goods were retailed there. In addition to the production of furniture, Vizagapatam had also been and established centre for the manufacture of dyed cottons which had attracted European traders since the 17th century such as the Dutch who established a trading post at Bimlipatam to the north in 1628, and the English, whose textile factory was founded at Vizagapatam in 1668. In 1768 the whole of the Circars region came under the control of the East India Company, with a subsequent increase in population due to the expanding lucrative coastal trade.

    In common with the present lot, the design of the furniture produced by the Indian cabinet makers was clearly based on European prototypes or pattern books. However the decoration exhibits Indian characteristics. The broad bands of engraved ivory feature exotic flowers and foliage. These motifs were derived from those initially drawn by Indian artists for use as designs on brightly coloured cotton goods which had become highly fashionable in the west since the 17th century. Whilst the first items of furniture and smaller wares produced in Vizagaptam from the late 17th century relied on ivory inlay and bandings inlaid into a primary timber such as rosewood, the vogue for ivory as the principle medium had become universal by the end of the 18th century. This necessarily restricted the repertoire of manufacture to smaller items of furniture such as chairs and table cabinets. The fashion for similar wares in Europe was spread through the examples which were brought back to the West by dignitaries and officials of the East India Company such as Edward Harrison, Governor of Fort St.George (Madras) (1711-17), Clive of India and Warren Hastings.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note the interior mirror is detached. The catalogue image has been digitally enhanced for illustrative purposes.
Auction information

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  1. Guy Savill
    Specialist - English Furniture and Works of Art
    Unit 1, Sovereign Park
    London, United Kingdom NW10 7QP
    Work +44 20 8963 2848
    FaxFax: +44 (0) 020 8963 2805
  2. Sally Stratton
    Specialist - English Furniture and Works of Art
    Unit 1, Sovereign Park
    London, United Kingdom NW10 7QP
    Work +44 20 8963 2847
    FaxFax: +44 (0) 020 8963 2805
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