Period: Mid Nineteenth Century
Height: 41 inches
Width: 26.5 inches
Depth: 22.75 inches
The profusely carved hardwood chair with shaped backrest and seat decorated with Indian peafowls (peacocks) to both the splat and seat, surrounded by scrolling foliage, the sides having pierced shaped aprons, the tapering legs and back supports entwined by serpent dragons.
The overall patination and colour to the hardwood (which we believe to be rosewood or it could be another hardwood such as Indian Gumar or Aini, or a combination of the two) is very appealing and the ornamentation is softly worn, commensurate with its age and use. There are two or three small areas of loss, to include one corner but the overall condition is good. One would more commonly see Anglo-Indian chairs having pierced higher splat backs and upholstered seats rather than solid carved ones as per this example.
This piece displays a level of craftsmanship and skill that is of the highest order, the whole heavy with symbolism. The Indian peafowl, or peacock, displayed strutting here is the national bird of India and are considered sacred, especially in the north where its feathers may be burnt to ward off disease, and even to cure snakebite. It is said that at the time of Creation of the universe, when the primordial poison was churned out of the Sea of Milk and transmuted into the amrita (nectar of immortality), it was a peacock that absorbed the negative effects. Thus the bird is thought of as a protector, though its flesh is consequently considered to be poisonous. Since a potentially deadly emotion such as anger is depicted as a serpent, and the peacock is immune, the peacock also symbolises victory over poisonous tendencies in sentient beings – in this case that is the dragon which we see carved to the legs and back supports of this piece. This chair therefore depicts a struggle between the protector of love, life and joy - the peacock, and the sentient being, the dragon representing anger, hate and terror.
With such an enormous amount of symbolism and sublime craftsmanship on show this amply sized piece proves to be an extremely fine example of Anglo-Indian colonial furniture harking back to the last days of the Raj and would prove an impressive hall chair.