Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods Inlaid Workbox on Stand
Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods Inlaid Workbox on Stand
Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods Inlaid Workbox on Stand
Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods Inlaid Workbox on Stand
Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods Inlaid Workbox on Stand
Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods Inlaid Workbox on Stand
Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods Inlaid Workbox on Stand
Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods Inlaid Workbox on Stand

Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods Inlaid Workbox on Stand

1830 to 1840 GALLE DISTRICT, (modern Sri Lanka)

Offered by Thomas Coulborn & Sons

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Rectangular workbox of calamander, inlaid with ivory, tortoiseshell and different woods, with silvered brass lock, hinges and mounts. The exterior with a flat lid and scalloped front, back and sides. At the front in the centre is a keyhole with a silvered brass surround. The inner face of the hinged lid is decorated with a floral roundel, surrounded by a band of flowers, inlaid with ivory and a variety of samples of specimen woods.

The box’s interior is divided into two distinct parts – the front and the rear. The front compartment is fitted with a detachable tray, mounted with ring pulls at each side for lifting. The tray is divided into ten lidded sections of varying sizes: two are veneered with ivory, etched with a floral motif; one is veneered with a specimen of wood; two are veneered with tortoiseshell; three are veneered with a central octagon made from ivory and etched with a floral design, surrounded by a specimen of wood and ivory border which is encompassed by an etched ivory surround with a specimen of wood triangle in each corner*; and two are veneered with shaped ivory and wood. All ten of the lids are defined by two borders of diamond- or rhombus-shaped specimens of wood and ivory. Each of the lids has a ring pull, seven of the lids with a petal shaped backplate.

Underneath this tray is a second detachable tray consisting of nine sections: seven with ringed lids, inlaid with different specimen woods, defined by borders of triangular shaped contrasting specimen woods. As on the tray above, each of the lids has a ring pull with a petal shaped backplate.

The rear section of the box consists of a panel with six dummy compartment lids. These dummy lids are inlaid with: one with tortoiseshell, one with specimen wood; two with ivory etched with a floral pattern; and two with the same central octagon made from ivory as described above(*). All of the lids are bordered with triangular shaped contrasting woods and ivory. This section is mounted with ring pulls at either side that allow it to be lifted up to reveal a frieze of five secret drawers. When elevated, this section rests on projecting wooden blocks. The drawers are inlaid with ivory, wood and tortoiseshell, defined by borders of triangular shaped contrasting woods and ivory.
The box is set on a rare original stand with turned stem and shaped tri-form base on three bun feet in the English taste.

Workboxes of this design, with a scallop-edged exterior of richly variegated calamander and an interior fitted with multiple tiers of compartments worked with ivory and exotic woods, seem to have been stock products of Galle workshops, a fortified town on the southwestern coast of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The design of the exterior is in the tradition of scallop-edged calamander bible boxes made under Dutch patronage during the eighteenth Century, probably in Matara, a fort town in the Galle District. The interiors of such boxes are decorated in styles similar to those of porcupine quill-overlaid boxes, which were very probably produced by the same hands. Of particular interest is the inner face of the lid, which is frequently inlaid with ivory in a design of floriated scrolls, sometimes composed of circles of ivory. These are typically configured around a central roundel. The interiors of the boxes themselves usually contain a detachable tray divided into compartments with engraved ivory, tortoise-shell or specimen-wood lids. Trays either conceal a well or a second tier of compartments fitted with lids in contrasting materials. In more sophisticated examples, such as this piece, the interior is fitted at the back with a panel of dummy compartments that can be lifted up to reveal a row of hidden drawers.

European perceptions about the abundance of Ceylon, particularly with reference to the timbers of the island, gave rise to the production of pieces of furniture that incorporated a variety of woods as part of their decoration. This box is a prime example of this genre of woodwork.
Bibliography: Two similar workboxes from Galle, which are in the V&A’s collection, are illustrated in Amin Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon: A Catalogue of the Collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, Timeless Books, New Delhi, 2001, p.374-5, plates 182 and 183.
Dimensions
Height 33.25 inch (84.45 cm)
Width 17.00 inch (43.18 cm)
Depth 11.50 inch (29.21 cm)
Stock Code
6206
Medium
Colonial Ceylonese Calamander and Exotic Woods
Thomas Coulborn & Sons

Thomas Coulborn & Sons
Vesey Manor
64 Birmingham Road
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B72 1QP
England

+44 (0)121-354 3974
+44 (0)7941 252299
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