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Matchbox label

Matchbox label

  • Place of origin:

    India (made)

  • Date:

    20th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Offset printed paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Indian matchbox covers form part of India’s vibrant popular visual culture. These small boxes, sold for a few pence, are bold and colourful, some simple and naïve, others more complex and detailed. The images range from gods and goddesses, women, flowers, fruits, monuments, transport, tools, consumer goods and more. Successful covers are continuously copied and there can be endless variations of one particular image produced by rival companies. Many covers have a ‘retro’ feel about them because of this copying process, this also makes them difficult to date. Despite their ephemeral nature, they can convey historical, political and social information. Matchbox art dates back to the 1920s when India began producing its own matches from factories in Calcutta in Bengal and Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu. Prior to this, matches were imported from Europe, mainly Sweden, and Japan. Early images reflect themes of nationalism while more recent images include planes, motorcycles and trucks.

Many Indian matchbox labels depict a lit match; a common motif on matchbox labels all around the world.

Physical description

Matchbox label for ‘Lions Safety Matches’. The label is divided into two sections - the upper section contains two leaping lions, the left one is red and white and the right one blue and white, on a yellow ground, while the lower section contains blue and white 10 and 3 paise coins and a yellow, black and red lit match at the bottom, set against a blue ground. At the top of the upper section is the text ‘Lions’ in black, ‘50’s Price 13 Ps’ in red underneath the lions, and ‘Raja Match Works Chittoor A.P’ in black at the bottom. This is enclosed within a thin black and thicker white border. At the top of the lower section are the words ‘Safety Matches’ in yellow. This design is very similar to the ‘JIMCO’ label.

Place of Origin

India (made)


20th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Offset printed paper


Height: 46 mm, Width: 33 mm

Descriptive line

Matchbox label for ‘Lions Safety Matches’, Chittoor, India, 20th century


Printed paper



Subjects depicted

Lions; Coins; Match


Labels & packaging


South & South East Asia Collection

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