This exquisite rosewood cabinet epitomizes a classic European furniture type known as a fall-front cabinet, in which the front cover, hinged at the bottom, opens to reveal its interior drawers for stationery and valuables. The cabinet’s sumptuous decoration is a verdant garden of inlaid ivory lilies, poppies, tulips, fantastical composite flowering plants, and blossoming vines. To delineate the stamens and petals of the flowers and the veins of the leaves, the ivory was incised with fine lines that were then filled with molten black lac. Attributed to c. 1650–70, the cabinet was made in one of several centers of production and commerce located along the western coast of the great Mughal Empire, which today is comprised of the modern Indian state of Gujarat and the present-day Pakistani province of Sindh. In the 18th or 19th century, the cabinet was exported to Europe, where it was fitted with European brass handles and monogrammed Art Nouveau-style backing plates. Although the basic form of South Asian fall-front cabinets derives from the European furniture tradition, their decoration is distinctly Indian and features a variety of inlay techniques, ranging from micro-mosaic work to fine marquetry in exotic woods and ivory. The heightened naturalism of this cabinet’s luxuriant blossoms and graceful leaves, which is contrasted and emphasized by their formality of presentation, represents the Mughal aesthetic at its most refined expression.More...
- Komaroff, Linda. Beauty and Identity: Islamic Art from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2016.
- Markel, Stephen. Mughal and Early Modern Metalware from South Asia at LACMA: An Online Scholarly Catalogue. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2020. https://archive.org/details/mughal-metalware (accessed September 7, 2021).
- Um, Nancy. "Chairs, Writing Tables, and Chests: Indian Ocean Furniture and the Postures of Commercial Documentation in Coastal Yemen, 1700-40." Art History 38, no.4 (2015): 718-731.