Casket thumbnail 1
Casket thumbnail 2
+7
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
South Asia, Room 41

Casket

Casket
ca. 1660 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This casket has delicate painted decoration of a fête galante. This is a romantic scene in which courtiers are shown in an idyllic rural setting, in this case a forest. Here we see willowy figures enjoying the pleasures of music, dance, drink and daydreaming surrounded by singing birds and fragrant flowers. The very shape of the casket reflects this carefree atmosphere. The ends are an unusual serpentine shape rather than straight. The painting on the box is in a style practised in Golconda in 1675-1700. It is unsigned but it is very close in style and feeling to a miniature painting in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. This carries the signature of Rahim Deccani and also shows an enthroned prince surrounded by attendants. The artist specifies his Deccani origin in his signed works. This suggests that he was working away from home, possibly elsewhere in India or in Iran. He might have fled there following the Mughal conquest of Golconda in 1687.
This box probably originally held precious belongings. Jules Richard, a Frenchman who arrived in Tehran in 1844, acquired it in Iran. Richard's collection of Iranian art was unparalleled. He formed it at a time when there were few Europeans in the country and little competition for the pieces that appeared on the market. In 1875 the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) acquired 2,000 objects from the collection through Robert Murdoch Smith. He acted as the Museum's agent in Tehran from 1873 to 1885. Further pieces from Richard's collection, including this casket, appeared at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, in 1889. Murdoch Smith acquired them for the Museum in the same year.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Papier-mâché, painted and varnished, with pierced ivory base moulding
Brief Description
Casket, papier-mâché, painted and lacquered with ivory edging at the base, Golconda, Deccan, probably painted by Rahim Deccani, ca. 1660.
Physical Description
Papier-mâché casket with sliding cover, painted with a dancer in a garden, a prince seated on a chair surrounded by women, a European man fluting, a girl reaching into a tree and, on the top, a princess reclining on a bed in a garden with companions. Varnished and with a pierced ivory base moulding.
Dimensions
  • Height: 9.6cm
  • Width: 9.2cm
  • Length: 13.6cm
Gallery Label
CASKET Pâpier-maché, painted and lacquered with ivory edging at the base Deccan (Golconda?) Probably painted by Rahim Deccani c. 1660-70 851-1889 One of the figures wears European dress datable to about 1660. The casket is attributed to the artist Rahim Deccani on the basis of a signed painting in a closely comparable style in the collection of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. (27/9/2013)
Object history
"This casket, probably originally used to hold precious belongings, is delicately painted with fête galante in which courtiers are portrayed in a forest idyll...

The painting on the box belongs to a style practised in Golconda in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Although not signed, it is very close in style to a miniature painting in the Chester Beatty Library that bears the signature of Rahim Deccani and similarly depicts an enthroned prince surrounded by attendants. The fact that in his signed works the artist specifies his Deccani origin suggests strongly that he was working away from home, possibly elsewhere in India or in Iran, where he might have fled following the Mughal subjugation of Golconda in 1687. Three pen-boxes (qalamdans) exist bearing his signature, one in the Khalili Collection, a second in the Freer Gallery of Art, and a third that was on the Paris market in 1975.



The European figure painted on the casket probably derives from Western representations of Orpheus, the legendary Thracian poet who charmed beasts with music played on his lyre. With the exception of the pleated sleeves, which belong to the early seventeenth century, his dress corresponds to European fashions of the 1670s and 1680s. However, the Mughal-style flowers that decorate the lining of his coat and the patterned breeches suggest that these Western-style garments were made in India from textiles that were available locally. Indian tailors were renowned for their skill at copying Western fashions."

Historical context
From the Richard Collection. Bought by the Art Museum for £5 in 1889.
Production
Painting attributed to Rahim Deccani.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This casket has delicate painted decoration of a fête galante. This is a romantic scene in which courtiers are shown in an idyllic rural setting, in this case a forest. Here we see willowy figures enjoying the pleasures of music, dance, drink and daydreaming surrounded by singing birds and fragrant flowers. The very shape of the casket reflects this carefree atmosphere. The ends are an unusual serpentine shape rather than straight. The painting on the box is in a style practised in Golconda in 1675-1700. It is unsigned but it is very close in style and feeling to a miniature painting in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. This carries the signature of Rahim Deccani and also shows an enthroned prince surrounded by attendants. The artist specifies his Deccani origin in his signed works. This suggests that he was working away from home, possibly elsewhere in India or in Iran. He might have fled there following the Mughal conquest of Golconda in 1687.

This box probably originally held precious belongings. Jules Richard, a Frenchman who arrived in Tehran in 1844, acquired it in Iran. Richard's collection of Iranian art was unparalleled. He formed it at a time when there were few Europeans in the country and little competition for the pieces that appeared on the market. In 1875 the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) acquired 2,000 objects from the collection through Robert Murdoch Smith. He acted as the Museum's agent in Tehran from 1873 to 1885. Further pieces from Richard's collection, including this casket, appeared at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, in 1889. Murdoch Smith acquired them for the Museum in the same year.
Bibliographic References
  • Guy, John and Swallow, Deborah (eds.) Arts of India: 1550-1900. Text by Rosemary Crill, John Guy, Veronica Murphy, Susan Stronge and Deborah Swallow. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1990, reprinted 1999. 240 p. : ill. ISBN: 1851770224.p. 122Mark Zebrowski 'Indian lacquerwork and the antecedents of the Qajar style', in William Watson, ed, Lacquerwork in Asia and Beyond, Colloquies on Art & Archaeology in Asia No. 11, University of London, 1982, 333-345: the casket is illustrated in fig. 3b and discussed 336-8. Navina N. Haidar Haykel, 'A lacquer Pen-box by Manohar: an example of late Safavid-style painting in India, in Rosemary Crill, Susan Stronge and Andrew Topsfield, eds, Arts of Mughal India. Studies in Honour of Robert Skelton, Victoria and Albert Museum/Mapin Publishing, 2004, 177-189. Illustrated figs. 5, 6 and 7, pp. 179-180.
  • Luxury goods from India : the art of the Indian cabinet maker / Amin Jaffer. London: V&A Publications, 2002 Number: 1851773819pp.60-61, ill.
  • Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700 : opulence and fantasy / Navina Najat Haidar and Marika Sardar ; with contributions by John Robert Alderman [and 14 others]. Number: 9781588395665 (Metropolitan Museum of Art), 1588395669 (Metropolitan Museum of Art), 9780300211108 (Yale University Press), 0300211104 (Yale University Press)p. 250, cat. no. 144
  • Ayers, J. Oriental Art in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1983, ISBN 0-85667-120-7p. 77
  • Irwin, John C., Indian Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1968pl. 52
  • Irwin, John, C., A Brief Guide to Indian Art, H.M.S.O. 1962fig. 31
  • Irwin, John , Art & the East India Trade; Victoria & Albert Museum,, HMSO, London, 1970No. 14
  • Irwin, John C., Indian Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1968fig. 32, p. 23
  • Skelton, Robert, et al, The Indian Heritage. Court life and Arts under Mughal Rule London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982p. 159 and 162, cat. no. 548. Robert Skelton
Collection
Accession Number
851-1889

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdDecember 15, 1999
Record URL