The British Raj. The name conjures images of elephants and deliciously colored turbaned servants bringing tea and whiskeys to the genteel sahibs and memsahibs of another era. India was the jewel in Britain’s Imperial crown (sorry, Canada, but it’s true), and generations of Brits went to the Eastern Empire in search of adventure and riches. While there, they recreated their English world at home and the Indian craftsmen were only too happy to oblige in creating the most exquisite furnishings, taking European forms and giving them an exotic flair.
The chaises shown above are early examples of Anglo-Indian furniture – pieces we recognize from our own homes, but wonderfully inlaid with ivory and tropical hardwoods to create beautiful works of art. This pair was recently offered at sale in London having spent the last 300 years or so in the same family for which they were made! They could easily be mistaken for European, except for the caning which provided a much cooler seating option in the humid tropics, and of course, the fabulous elaborate inlay of vines and foliage which covers every surface. The ivory inlay recalls the patterns inlaid into marble to decorate Indian temples and the walls of the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Anglo-Indian furniture has experienced a renaissance as of late with prices climbing to the heights of the Himalayas themselves. I think the attraction is partly the romance of this by-gone world and the craftsmanship which makes this furniture as interesting today as it would have been when it made its maiden voyage to London in 1710.
Image credit: Christie’s