Vizagapatam, late 18th century
the top of the upper section centered by a large ivory panel engraved with buildings within a landscape within foliate-engraved bandings above a foliate and dentil-engraved cornice, the cabinet fitted with a long drawer above a bank of four drawers flanked by a pair of cupboard doors each opening to three pigeonholes above four drawers, the lower section fitted with a slant front opening to three pigeon house above a drawer flanked by pilaster-fronted secret drawers flanked by banks of three drawers, the case fitted with a long drawer opening to a compartmentalized interior, the whole on bracket feet.
This exotic piece is a miniature version of a typical English late-eighteenth-century bureau-cabinet. Jaffer argues that this group of ivory veneered cabinets were reduced in size to facilitate their transport by land or sea from Vizagapatam (Jaffer 2002, cat.33, p.80).
The engraving of the veneered surfaces depicts both fictional and real architectural buildings drawn from European prints; observe, for instance, King's College Chapel illustrated at the center of the slant front on the present example. This trend for architectural engravings began at Vizagaptam in the 1760s, and typically decorates the horizontal spaces. The vertical areas tend to be split into two separate fields, the lower section with buildings, the upper with trees, as seen here. The ornate floral borders are also typical of the type, and are drawn from textiles produced in Vizagapatam for export to Europe.
A similar miniature bureau-cabinet is preserved in the Royal Collection (illustrated in The Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair Handbook, 2003, p.6), and was bought by George III for Queen Charlotte in 1781. Queen Charlotte evidently greatly favoured these pieces, for she continued to collect Anglo-Indian furniture and went on to create an 'Indian Room' for her collection of ivory furniture at Frogmore.
A similar cabinet was sold at Christie's, London, November 3, 2011, lot 151, another at Sotheby's London, May 23, 2006, lot 40, another at Christie's, London, 6 July 2000, lot 14; and another through these rooms 25 May 2005, lot 181.
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