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AMIN Jaffer is a curator in the Department of Asian Art at the V&A and an expert on the decorative arts of colonial India, the author of V&A Publishing’s excellent Furniture from British India and Ceylon.

Here Mr Jaffer has selected 50 of the finest examples of India’s furniture and woodwork dated from the 16th to the late 19th century from the V&A’s collection. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in India in the late 15th century people sat cross-legged on textiles placed on the floor – “the great art in furniture is to do without it” – and as there was no indigenous furniture that suited the incomers, they commissioned extravagant pieces along European lines from native craftsmen. The resulting mix of Western furniture forms with Indian materials and decorative techniques produced some exquisite pieces; tortoiseshell caskets, throne chairs made from marble or ebony, mother-of-pearl ewers and basins, all beautiful examples of craftsmanship and highly prized in Europe, where they found their way into royal collections and ecclesiastical treasuries. One for students of colonial patronage and lovers of the decorative arts of Asia.