Teak in 19th Century Indian Decorative Arts: A Fusion of Elegance and Craftsmanship

In the 19th century, teak was a highly valued material in Indian decorative arts, renowned for its rich colour, strength, and excellent quality for carving. The use of teak in furniture and other decorative items was a sign of wealth and status, particularly in areas like Bombay (modern-day Mumbai). This region was known for producing intricately carved furniture, which was highly sought after. The distinct style of carving typical to the Bombay area during this period often featured dark hues, using Rosewood and Malabar teak, leading to the term “Bombay Blackwood.”

A notable example of the exquisite use of teak in this era is an Anglo Indian armchair, profusely carved and dating back to the mid-19th century. This armchair, crafted in Bombay around 1840, exemplifies the elegant design influence from the English Regency period, with its elegant shape, extended paw foot, and finely pierced and carved details. The chair’s design is indicative of the British influence in India during the early to mid-19th century, and it reflects a transitional period where Indian craftsmen began to incorporate more of their own designs, such as carvings of elephants and peacocks, into the furniture.

Besides chairs, teak was also used in making chests, tables, and doors, showcasing the versatility of the wood and the craftsmanship of Indian artisans. For instance, a teak residence chest from the late 19th century features a robust construction with detailed joinery, bronze handles, and a functional locking system, reflecting both the practical and aesthetic use of teak. Similarly, a large antique Indian Thakat table, traditionally used for multiple purposes including working, eating, and sleeping, was crafted from teak, featuring turned legs, iron reinforcing struts, and decorative brass elements. These items highlight the skill of Indian artisans in working with teak to create both functional and decorative pieces.

Moreover, the influence of various styles, such as the Louis XIV style, is evident in certain pieces like the rare Indian teak doors from Pondicherry, blending Indian craftsmanship with European stylistic elements.


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