Tea chest

DATE: ca.1840 (made)
PLACE: India (made)
England (made) Silver mounts
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Rosewood with ivory inlay engraved with lac, silver mounts

This lockable tea chest was made in Vizagapatam, a busy trading port on the East coast of India. By the early 18th century, Vizagapatam craftsmen were producing Anglo-Indian export pieces densely decorated with ivory inlay. Although large-scale furniture was sometimes made at Vizagapatam, the greater part of the trade was in easily transportable wood objects, such as caddies, writing boxes and chests. Due to their inclusion of exotic materials and decorative appeal, Vizagapatam objects were often commissioned as gifts or tokens of esteem.

This tea chest is decorated with ivory inlay and engraved with lac to create the contrasting black details. The floral decoration is likely inspired by the style of textiles made in the same region. Rosewood was commonly used by Vizagapatam craftsmen, along with teak, padouk and ebony, as these woods were prized by the wealthy.