A fine sadeli-ware work box, Western India, possibly Bombay, second half 19th century
of rectangular form, the exterior decorated with sadeli and ivory, with brass lock and carrying handles, a hinged opening to upper section revealing a letter holder, hinged section opening to reveal various compartments with lids, this section detachable, showing below compartments devoted to writing, a drawer, lacking keys
22 by 31.6 by 20cm.
In good condition, the exterior decoration with minor losses, the ivory with minor cracks and dirt, lacking the keys for the three holes, the interior with minor scratches to the wood and very minor losses to the sadeli work, the ivory inside with minor stains, minor cracks, the drawer has not been opened, as viewed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Sadeli is a technique which consists of micromosaic made of wood, ivory and metal arranged in geometric patterns. This technique is usually associated with Western India, in particular with the Bombay Presidency (Bombay, Surat, Ahmedabad and Bilimora). The technique was known in other regions of India: in the catalogue of Bengal products sent to the Great Exhibition of 1851, some sadeli-wares are mentioned being made in Calcutta although "superior articles of the same description are made in Bombay" (Jaffer 2001, p.233).
Sandalwood was the preferred material used for such cases but due to its cost, often sadeli-decorated boxes "were constructed of a less expensive substrate with an inner lining and outer facing of sandalwood distinguishing the less expensive wood" (ibid, p.313); this is not the case for this refined work box, whose structure is entire made of sandalwood, emanating a delicate scent as soon as it is opened.
The bands of alternating semicircles and triangles which run along the lid are comparable to thosevon a workbox dated 1881, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, inv. no.IS 2344-1883; published in Jaffer 2001, p.327, no.146, while the rows of small circles on the drawers are similar to those found on a portable writing desk dated to 1850-70, also in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, inv. no.PEM:E23674, published in Jaffer 2001, p.317, no.129.