Object photography

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On View Indian Export Art Gallery, level 3

Object description

  • Indian artist
  • Chair, about 1760
  • Ebony, ivory, black lacquer, cane
  • Vizagapatam, India
  • H: 42 in, W: 26 in, D: 21 in (H: 106.7 cm, W: 66.0 cm, D: 53.3 cm)
  • Museum Purchase, 2001
  • AE85784


This solid ebony chair from Vizagapatam, based on English chairs of the 1760s, is extensively inlaid with engraved ivory forming a tree of life motif on the back splat and, unusually, fleur de lis medallions on the seat rails and the knees. Vizagapatam, an important port on the Coromandel Coast of India, was a major center for the production of western-style furniture inlaid or veneered with ivory. The chair's interesting provenance was documented on an early, embroidered seat cushion, which was removed and lost sometime after 1947. Further Remarks: Presented to Lady Harland by the Nawab of Arcot. According to the needlework inscription, Muhammad Ali Khan Walajah, the Nawab of Arcot (r.1749-1795) presented this chair to Lady Harland, the wife of Sir Robert Harland, in 1772. Robert Harland served as the Commander-in-Chief of the British Navy in the East Indies from 1771 to 1774. French and British forces vied for power in India in the mid to late 18th century. The inlaid fleur de lis medallions may indicate that the Nawab originally commissioned this chair for a French dignitary, opting instead to present it to Lady Harland when political winds shifted toward the British.