European historical sources tell us that furniture and other wooden items that were lacquered and inlaid with mother-of-pearl were being created in the 16th century in Northern Gujarat, particularly around Ahmedabad, Cambay and Surat and further west in Thattha. In some instances these luxury items were made for Indian patrons, but they seem to have been created predominantly for European, Near Eastern and Turkish exports markets. The King of France received a mother-of-pearl bed in 1529 and an inlaid coffer was inventoried in the collection of the Elector of Saxony in 1602.
This casket belongs to a group which consists of a wooden article covered in a dark mastic and inset with pieces of mother-of-pearl.
The decoration of this group most frequently takes the form of vegetal or geometric designs. Figural decoration is rarer. A variety of forms were produced, such as coffers, caskets, cabinets, penboxes, shields, a throne, gameboards, a bookrest, a large dish and even a pair of sandals. The fragile nature of the medium has meant that only around 30 recorded examples survive, now almost entirely in museums. R
Other examples of these luxury objects were sold at Christie's, London, 12 October 2004, lot 199, 31 March 2009, lot 214 and 7 April 2011, lot 225.