Writing cabinet decorated with hunting scenes

On display

Lacquer painting was an important luxury art in Safavid and Qajar Persia and Mughal India. As with many of the Mughal decorative arts, very few early examples now survive. This painted and lacquered scrutore, or small portable writing cabinet, is one of only two known examples of its type.

The four sides of the cabinet are decorated with spirited scenes of noblemen in Mughal dress on caparisoned horses, hunting various wild beasts, including deer, lion, tiger, fox and crane. The figures are finely painted in a restricted earthly palette, generously heightened with gold, which is also used profusely on the surrounding large and exuberantly burgeoning shrubs and trees, creating dramatic contrasts with the black background. The top has been restored and weakly repainted in a more Persianate style, probably in the 19th century.

Drop-front caskets of this kind probably first appeared in Germany after the middle of the 16th century and soon became popular in Italy, the Iberian peninsula and elsewhere. The commonest Indian type of scrutore is teak-veneered with ivory inlay; examples in other techniques are much rarer.

Details

  • Catalogue text

    Lacquer painting was an important luxury art in Safavid and Qajar Persia and Mughal India, being used especially for fine-book-bindings made for royal patrons. As with many of the Mughal decorative arts, very few early examples now survive. This painted and lacquered scrutore, or small portable writing cabinet, is one of only two known examples of its type.

    Drop-front caskets of this kind probably first appeared in Germany after the middle of the 16th century and soon became popular in Italy, the Iberian peninsula and elsewhere. Before 1600 examples were being made in Japan and India after models supplied by the Portuguese. The commonest Indian type of scrutore is teak-veneered with ivory inlay; examples in other techniques are much rarer.

    The four sides of the cabinet are decorated with spirited scenes of noblemen in Mughal dress on caparisoned horses, hunting various wild beasts, including deer, lion, tiger, fox and crane. The figures are finely painted in a restricted earthly palette, generously heightened with gold, which is also used profusely on the surrounding large and exuberantly burgeoning shrubs and trees, creating dramatic contrasts with the black background. The top has been restored and weakly repainted in a more Persianate style, probably in the 19th century.

    The cabinet has been attributed by two authorities to the Deccan on stylistic grounds, but more recently it has been assigned to the Western province of Sind, which was a major centre for the manufacture of cabinets as well as painted and lacquered bows in the early 17th century.

    In: Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987)

Further reading

Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987), no. 99 on pp. 88-89, pl. 23 (colour) & p. 89

Reference URL

?
q-seffron-icon q-white-icon pluse-seffron-icon pluse-white-icon minus-seffron-icon minus-white-icon close-seffron-icon close-white-icon close-black-icon prv-gry-arrow prv-arrow print-seffron-icon print-black-icon next-arrow next-gry-arrow next-white-arrow up-arrow-black up-arrow black-up-arrow black-down-arrow white-up-arrow white-down-arrow hr-list-gry-icon hr-list-white-icon vr-list-gry-icon vr-list-white-icon eye-icon zoomin-icon zoomout-icon fullview-icon contact-black-icon contact-seffron-icon basket-seffron-icon basket-black-icon share-black-icon share-seffron-icon go-arrow search-white-icon