Ivory cabinet with floral decoration

On display

This cabinet was probably made for a Dutch Company official serving on the Coromandel Coast or in Ceylon. Its surfaces are composed of multiple ivory plaques, carved in low relief with a bold floral meander pattern. This large-headed flower design is closer to the European taste than to the local decorative repertoire.


  • Title

    Ivory cabinet with floral decoration

  • Associated place

    Sri Lanka (possible) (possible place of creation)
    south India (possible) (possible place of creation)
  • Date

    late 17th century - early 18th century
  • Material and technique

    wood, overlaid with carved ivory decoration

  • Material index

  • Technique index

  • Object type

  • Dimensions

    50.1 x 65 x 41.7 cm max. (height x width x depth)
  • No. of items


  • Credit line

    Bequeathed by Mrs Martha Combe, 1894.

  • Museum location

    First floor | Gallery 33 | Mughal India
  • Museum department

    Eastern Art

  • Accession no.


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  • Catalogue text

    Like [EA1976.6] this larger ivory cabinet would have been made for a European (probably Dutch) patron, at one of the trading settlements on the Coromandel coast or in Ceylon. Furniture of this type was made for everyday use rather than export, but a number of examples were brought to Europe as gifts or by retiring Company officers returning home. The top, side and door panels are made up of multiple ivory plaques carved in low relief with a bold floral meander pattern. The inner sides of the doors and the eight internal drawers are similarly decorated. The luxuriant large-headed flower decoration is much closer to the European taste than to the sparer, more formal Mughal floral ornament of northern India.

    A larger and more elaborately carved ivory cabinet of similar type, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (I.S. 70-1959), formerly belonged to the artist William Holman Hunt (1827-1910). It is reported that the present cabinet was also found by Holman Hunt in London, and was purchased on his advice by Mrs. Combe, who later bequeathed it to the Museum. An ivory box in a comparable decorative style is in the Archaeological Museum, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka (von Lohuizen-de Leeuw, loc. cit.).

    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. 104 on pp. 92-93, illus. p. 92

Reference URL

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