This lacquer scribe’s box is a rare example of Deccani lacquer work, impressive for its intricate decoration and unparalleled in its size. The Shi’a courts of the Deccan had strong links with Iran and many consider the development of a local lacquer production in the Deccan a result of contacts with Iran. The decorative idiom of our box however is clearly Indian in taste.
A lacquer jewel casket in the Victoria and Albert museum, attributed to the artist Rahim Deccani working at Golconda and dated to the late 17th century, has decorative panels which have a similar balance of scale to the main panel on the lid of our box, (Inv. 851-1889; Navina Najat Haidar and Marika Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India: 1500-1700 Opulence and Fantasy, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2015, p.250, cat.144,). In both cases large trees in blossom dominate the background and much of the foreground is filled with large-scale flowering plants. The Rahim Deccani casket however has a greater sense of European influenced naturalism and Safavid taste. Our box with its locally inspired architecture with multiple layers and overhanding awnings probably predates the Rahim Deccani casket as it shows little influence of the Safavid painters such as Shaykh ‘Abbasi who arrived at the court in Golconda during the second half of the 17th century, (Mark Zebrowski, Deccani Painting, London, 1983, p.195). The large poppy-like red floral blooms which draw the attention of the viewer found on our box are much more closely related to floral blooms illustrated on a page from an Anwar-i Suhaili manuscript in the Victoria and Albert museum which is attributed to Golconda circa 1550-60 or later, (Zebrowski, op.cit, p.156, no.119). The sense of scale on our box is slightly more stratified than that found in the Anwar-i Suhaili illustration which would suggest that our box is slightly later in date and can be attributed to the first half of the 17th century. A pair of book covers painted in similar pigments to our box but slightly later in date and attributed to Golconda or Bijapur are in the the Howard Hodgkin Collection, (Haidar and Sardar, op.cit, p.138, cat.58). A figural lacquer panel with closely related flowering plants in the David Collection is like our box attributed to the first half of the 17th century, (Kjeld von Folsach, Art from the World of Islam in the David Collection, Copenhagen, 2001, p.102, no.75).