Almost certainly gifted to Richard Starke, Deputy Governor of Fort St. David, Madras by the East India Company.
Thence by decent in the Starke family, Castle House, Laugharne Carmarthenshire.
Born in 1720 at Fort St. George, Madras, Richard Starke joined the English East India Company initially as a writer although he continued his career to become 2nd in Council at Fort. St. George and later as the Deputy Governor at Fort. St. David, the British encampment some 100 miles south of Madras where he remained until his resignation in 1756, when he was replaced by Robert Clive, later Clive of India. His son, Richard Isaac Starke settled in Laugharne, becoming a Colonel of the Camarthen Militia and in 1809 the High Sheriff of Carmarthen. The current chest remained in the Starke family until very recently.
Western styles of furniture were not commonly used in pre-colonial India where nearly all socialising took place on textile adorned floors with the posible exception of royalty who were give raised seats in order to designate their superiority over their subjects. Although with the western influence furniture workshops emerged to cater for the incomers, luxury items such as this would have been rare. Indeed in 1750, it is thought that only some forty or so British residents owned a chest of drawers. The restrictively high cost of living, and cost of return shipping hindered all but the most wealthy from owning anything more than the most utilitarian of items. As such this would have been a highly prized gift from the East India company to one of their loyal employees.
The current chest is one of a small known group of chests of this form thought to date from the early to mid 18th century and displaying inlay work thought to be from the Coromandel Coast region of South-East India. Renowned for its textiles, the designs for which are reflected in the style of the inlay, the area was also noted for an abundance of ebony as noted by a Dutch traveller, Georg Rumphius, [the coast]..'is exceptionally richly provided of this as the natives make from it all kinds of curious work' A.Jaffer, Luxury Goods from India, London, 2002, p.46. There is a virtually identical example in the collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum (IS 106-1961), illustrated here, whilst a further similar example is at Raynham Hall, Norfolk.
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