Very much the star turn was this Indian wood casket overlaid with mother of pearl, which comes from the state of Gujarat in north-west India. The casket, which measures 14¾ x 2ft 1½x 15in (37.5 x 65 x 38cm) and has brass fittings and a velvet lined interior, was catalogued as possibly from the late 16th century.
It features elaborate geometric designs and panels of trees set against a foliate scrolling ground, decoration executed in thin layers of mother of pearl inlaid on a lac ground, an artistic technique characteristic of the state of Gujarat.
Pieces using this technique, the first known examples of which date from the early 16th century, were also exported to the West as luxury objects and caskets such as these were used to contain a wedding dowry.
Dixon’s casket had multiple losses to the inlay and multiple traces of restoration and possible reinforcements but bidders evidently rated the piece highly. The $8000-12,000 estimate was left far behind with sale running online from June 5-15. The lot finally sold for $190,000 (£154,470) or $237,500 including premium, a figure suggesting confirmation of a 16th century date.
In March 20211 in London as part of its sale of Arts of the Islamic world and India, Sotheby’s sold another similarly decorated casket catalogued as from north-west India, Gujarat, c.1570-1600, that was slightly smaller in size and in better condition, for a premium-inclusive price of £499,000.
Such pieces are rare on the market but other caskets of this type can be found in museum collections around the world.