Goa, on India's west coast was a great trading center and Port. Colonized by the Portuguese in the early 16th century, a thriving furniture production developed. The present cabinet which is based on traditional Portuguese design, would have been made either for the local Portuguese inhabitants of Goa, or for export to Europe. The romanticism of its origin, together with the exotic woods and veneers used, had great appeal for the European market.
The present cabinet is distinguished by the fact that it incorporates elements more commonly associated with Mughal-influenced Gujarat design and coloring, in particular the use of green tinted ivory. It is comparable with writing boxes and table cabinets produced in Gujarat and Sindh in the 16th and 17th centuries, for example a small fall-front cabinet, and a cabinet on stand in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated, A. Jaffer, Luxury Goods from India, London 2002, pp. 28-32, nos. 7 and 8. Each of these pieces is decorated with scrolling floral and foliate motifs very similar to those on the present piece.
Two Goanese contadors are also in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated, Jaffer, op.cit. pp. 56-59, no. 21 and 22. The former is raised on a stand with identically shaped feet inlaid with a bird form which, according to Jaffer, has been identified by scholars as jatayu, king of the vultures - a central figure in the Ramayana (Jaffer, ibid. p. 57). The latter contador, fitted with rows of drawers as on the present piece, is fitted with almost identical pierced gilt-copper mounts.
The present cabinet is most closely comparable with a six drawer table cabinet in the Grao Vasco Museum, Viseu, Portugal. Dated to 1675-1685 its top is identical in design to the top and sides on the present piece, and the drawers are also identically decorated. This table cabinet could very possibly have been made in the same workshop.
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