GUJURAT, circa 1680
In a rosewood, tortoiseshell and ivory veneered case. Inlaid with rosewood alternating with bone and ivory stringing; and with engraved ivory panels decorated with leaves and flowers. The hinged lid lifts to reveal a mirror surrounded with red velvet and a lift-out tray which is divided into four sections, edged with decorative green stained ivory corner pieces. Above a pair of doors, with tortoiseshell panels on the reverse, which open to reveal and a fitted interior with an arrangement of six rosewood drawers with ivory knobs, each with a green stained bone and gilt fret front. With a pair of sliding tortoiseshell panels to the rear sides of the cabinet, which open to reveal three hidden drawers on each side. Raised on a plinth with small bracket feet. With brass hinges, escutcheons and a carrying handle on both sides. The locks with keys.
Amin Jaffer comments that: ‘In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries the influence of Europeans was greatest at the various factories or trading posts in Gujurat, Bengal and the Coromandel Coast.’ (Amin Jaffer, ‘Furniture from British India and Ceylon’, London, 2001, p.109). He observes that, until recently, tortoiseshell caskets were thought to have been seventeenth Century Spanish or Portuguese. Their ‘new Indian attribution is based on recent Portuguese scholarship… Contemporary travel accounts confirm that tortoiseshell articles were made in India under Portuguese patronage…’ (Amin Jaffer, ‘Luxury Goods From India: the art of the Indian Cabinet-Maker’ (London, V&A, 2002), p.17).
Such caskets were used to house jewellery. In a 17th Century miniature housed in the Chester Beatty Library and entitled ‘The Portrait of Rustam Khan’ an undecorated cabinet is depicted in the upper border with two servant figures placing different jewels in each drawer. This shows that these cabinets were made for a local market and not just produced on commission to serve European demand.
Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell: Lady Ottoline Morrell (16 June 1873 – 21 April 1938) was an English aristocrat and society hostess. Her patronage was influential in artistic and intellectual circles, where she befriended writers including Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon, T.S. Eliot and D.H. Lawrence, and artists including Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and Gilbert Spencer. Lady Ottoline and her husband travelled to India in 1935. Lady Ottoline Morrell’s Papers are held in the collection of the British Library, and Philip Morrell had the journal which she wrote on this tour of India transcribed. The National Portrait Gallery has a vintage snapshot print, possibly by Philip Edward Morrell, entitled ‘On the way to India (Lady Ottoline Morrell)’, depicting Lady Ottoline Morrell enroute to India in January 1935 (NPG x144211).
Garsington Manor: Garsington Manor, in the village of Garsington, near Oxford, England, is a Tudor building, probably built in the late 16th Century, using the site of monastic buildings formerly owned by Abingdon Abbey. Philip Morrell (1870-1943), of the local brewing family, and his wife, Lady Ottoline Morrell, bought the manor house in 1913, at which time it was in a state of disrepair, having been used as a farmhouse. They moved into the house in 1915, with their daughter Julian. They completely redesigned the house and gardens in the 1920s, working with the architect Philip Tilden, and creating landscaped Italianate gardens.
The Morrells were part of the Bloomsbury Group, and Garsington became a haven for their friends: D. H. Lawrence, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Mark Gertler, and Bertrand Russell. In 1916, they invited conscientious objectors, including Clive Bell and other ‘Bloomsberries’, to come and work on the home farm for the duration of World War I, as civilian Work of National Importance recognised as an alternative to military service. Aldous Huxley spent some time here before he wrote ‘Crome Yellow’, and is said to have made the Manor House his setting.