An ivory inlaid and engraved ivory cross banded padouk dressing table, Indian, Vizagapatam, circa 1755-60. With one long drawer above a concave kneehole recess with three drawers and flanked by two further banks of four drawers, raised on bracket feet. The whole profusely inlaid with engraved scrolling floral designs and with applied engraved ivory edging, silvered handles and escutcheons.
The port of Vizagapatam on the Coromandel Coast in Eastern India was a centre of Anglo Indian furniture and textile manufacture and export in the second half of the 18th Century. The form of this dressing table is inspired by English examples of the mid 18th century combined with Indian techniques which utilized the available ivory and exotic hardwoods. The large densely foliated frieze patterns, based on indigenous plants, mirror that of the Vizagapatam Chintz fabrics that were popular throughout Europe during this period. Robert Clive (1725-74) served a number of terms in India, first travelling to Madras in 1744 as a writer or clerk in the East India Company though distinguishing himself in military actions, and then serving in Bombay (1755-60) and Bengal (1765-67). The dressing- table, with a closely matching though not integral toilet-glass, must have been acquired in his first term of service since it is recorded that the feet were replaced by the London cabinet-maker George Smith Bradshaw (1717-1812) in 1761: 'taking off a great deal of engraved ivory stain’d & spoil’d from the Buroe table, fixing in others and new engraving & new working & cleaning the whole & polishing all the work taking off all the old silver handles & fixing on the new, time added…4.18.6’ & ‘four new feet brackets pencil’d like the work…19.6’ & Making & carving new moulds for the silver smith to cast the different handles & ornaments from…16.6’ & ‘9 new brass locks & key’ & ‘a new set of Castors, Aligosant wood Ivory etc…17.6’ (Clive collection IOR MSS.Eur.G37 Box 76). A comparable cabinet in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (M.3-2016) displays similar flower work, this example was owned by Sir Thomas Rumbold (1736-1791), Governor of Madras. Another bequeathed to the National Trust by Huttleston Rogers Broughton, 1st Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966) in the Anglesey Abbey collection (NT 514493). One sold Sotheby's, New York, Property from the Collection of Lily and Edmond J. Safra, 3 November 2005, lot 144 also executed in padouk, it features similar marquetry with large flowers and tied ribbons to the corners. It was acquired from Mallet & Son in 2002 and was illustrated in Lanto Synge, Mallets Great English Furniture, 1991, p. 184, fig. 210. (James Weedon, February 2019)
Purchased by Robert Clive (1725-1774) circa 1755-60. Listed in 1774 inventory as 'A Curious commode Chest of Composed of Rosewood inlaid with Ivory and Silver mounted mark'd A6'. Brought to Powis Castle from Walcot Hall in 1930. Accepted by HM Treasury on 21st March, 1963 in lieu of tax and conveyed to National Trust ownership on 29th November 1963.
Jaffer 2001 : Amin Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon, a catalogue of the collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, London, V&A publications, 2001. Jaffer 2002 : "Luxury goods from India, the art of the Indian cabinet maker", London, V&A publications, 2002. Treasures from India . the Clive collection at Powis Castle Mildred Archer, Christopher Rowell, Robert Skelton.