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17th CENTURY INDO-PORTUGUESE CABINET
Probably from Goa, India
This Padouk wood 'contador' is inlaid with ebony marquetry with ebony banding and a lozenge design to the base. The scrolling feet are inlaid with a stylised bird motif which scholars have associated with Oatayu, King of the Vultures and a central character in the Ramayana. It is very closely related to the one held in the Victoria & Albert Museum Collections and illustrated by Amin Jaffer (see bibliography).
The Western inspiration for this cross-cultural piece of furniture is that of a 17th century cabinet containing a number of small drawers which would have been placed on a matching fitted stand. However, Indo-Portuguese cabinets of this type are also characterised by distinctive elements such as the delicately swirling shapes of the dense arabesque inlay, the pierced metal mounts and abstracted designs; there is no precedent in any one European or Indian tradition so this form is truly a cross-cultural piece of furniture.
The cabinet was owned by Anthony Freire Marreco who was the last surviving counsel to the British Delegation at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946. His interest in Human Rights continued and in 1960 he was part of a group which founded the charity which later became "Amnesty International". As it was reported that the cabinet had been in the family for generations and his great grandfather came to England from Portugal in the early 19th century and became a naturalised British subject, it seems likely that the cabinet was brought to England by him.
Luxury Goods from India, Amin Jaffer, V & A publications 2002
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