marquetry table cabinet
The marquetry table cabinet that made £16,000 at Cheffins.

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Eight phone bidders, three of whom were Portuguese, competed for a 15in (39cm) wide marquetry table cabinet at Cheffins in Cambridge on September 13.

Probably made in either Gujarat or Sind for the export market c.1600, this cabinet belongs to a small but well-documented group of cabinets combining Mughal craftsmanship with Europeanising elements. Portuguese figures are represented – recognisable by their bouffant trousers, waisted shirts and hats with an upturned brim.

Although in need of much repair, it came for sale from a Northamptonshire vendor with a modest £300-500 estimate.

The successful Portuguese bid of £26,000 (plus 22.5% buyer’s premium) was the same as that achieved by a cabinet with similar figural decoration sold at Sotheby’s (25% buyer’s premium) as part of the estate of artist Howard Hodgkin in October 2017. Another took £32,000 at Sotheby’s in 2016.


The European figure decoration to a £16,000 cabinet sold at Cheffins.

The Oak Sale held by Bonhams on September 18 included another early example of Indo-Portuguese furniture, a pair of ornately carved giltwood low chairs of a type associated with the Bay of Bengal in the late 16th century.

Assuming a sub-continental form, they are carved with motifs borrowed for the European Renaissance.

Two similar chairs at Loseley House, Surrey, were reputedly part of a set used by Queen Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting while a related chair with lacquer decoration sold at Bonhams Chester for a surprise £13,500 in 2012. The present pair sold within expectations at £15,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).


Indo-Portuguese giltwood low chairs – £15,000 at Bonhams.

Export art is also featured in ATG’s Asian Art supplement.