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Ivory chair, India, about 1785. Museum no. 1075-1882, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Ivory chair, India, about 1785. Museum no. 1075-1882, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Elegant European styles of furniture were copied by Indian craftsmen using local materials, as in this ivory chair. This chair, its pair and the accompanying table are of solid ivory. They were made in Murshidabad, the Nawabi capital of Bengal and a famous centre of ivory-carving.

Furniture makers there made small quantities of western-style pieces, possibly only as commissions. Mani Begum of Murshidabad gave these pieces as part of a special gift to Warren Hastings, the first British Governor-General of India. Their western forms and exotic working reflect the blend of tastes at Indian courts at this time.

In the audio below, Christopher Cook and Amin Jaffer discuss how East meets West in an 18th century carved ivory chair. The chair was given to Warren Hastings, the first British Governor-General of India, by Mani Begum of Murshidabad.

Part of the Proms 2004 Performing Art season of talks.

Download: mp3 | ogg View transcript

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