There is no substantiated information on the origin of this mother of pearl sausage industry in India. There are reports of works of mother-of-pearl inlays from the 15th century. Babur the first Mughal Emperor (Akbar's grandfather) recounts in his memoirs, Babur-nama, on September 1529, while campaigning in North India, having sent several gifts to his Hindal son in Kabul, namely a built-in inkwell and mother-of-pearl bench.
It seems we can consider three types of Gujarati lacquer pieces. Those produced for the local market, those for the Islamic export market, and those for European orders.
From the historical context it is to be assumed that exports to the Islamic world predate trade-oriented European countries. It is a reality, however, that some mostly coffin objects with obvious Islamic typology and design entered European royal collections in the 16th and 16th centuries, precisely for their exotic value and beauty and in a spirit of inventory fostered by the fascination with the novelties of a world. which was then being "discovered".
Jorge Welsh's office reveals a stylized geometrical and vegetal design that, although Islamic in character, is typical of the decorative arts of Gujarat, a decorative vocabulary that incorporates stylized trees with inverted heart canopy, palm trees with rosettes, etc., characteristic of the Sultanates of North India from the pre-Mughal period.
When the Portuguese dominated the Indian trade and seized the Arab and Ottoman trade routes and that European trade interests were gaining strength, especially from 1601 (with the opening of the English and Dutch factories in Surat) the production of Export furniture acquired contours best suited to the European taste of the time.
In his Itinerary, published in 1596, the Dutchman Linschoten mentions that in Sind, next to the mouth of the Indo River “they make all kinds of desks, cabinets, bags, boxes, sticks and a thousand other similar trinkets and curiosities, all embedded. and carved with mother of pearl, all being taken to Goa and Cochin, when the Portuguese ships are there to load. The French François Pyrard de Laval, a keen observer of what he saw in India between 1601 and 1611, describing the kingdom of Cambodia (Gujarat) says: , or, argent, pierreries, le tout fait proprement. ”It referred to small chopping-top offices with a larger central drawer surrounded by small drawers decorated with various wood inlays produced by the Ausburg and Nuremberg workshops since the sec. XVI, very popular throughout Europe.
Jorge Welsh's Mother of Pearl Lacquer Inlaid Office is possibly unique and of great relevance, illustrating the transition from Islamic to European models at the formative dawn of an exotic furniture export market from India to Europe that would maintain the its glow until at least the eighteenth century. The typology of this furniture fully corresponds to the models in vogue in Europe at the time. To the best of our knowledge, and despite several contemporary mentions of mother-of-pearl offices, we have just published another Guzarate mother-of-pearl inlaid office (1), which is much closer to the numerous offices in which ivory replaces mother-of-pearl. , one more step closer to European taste and technique.
Jorge Welsh's office, though no longer cultivating the meandering, almost calligraphic inlaid forms of some of the Islamic-world specimens, still retains the decorative patterns of this era with elements such as the inverted heart-shaped tree and the stylized palm tree with rosettes.All the interior of the furniture is decorated with a red lacquered work of plant type, Fig 2, typical of the workshops of the Gujarat of that time.
The typology of this furniture corresponds to that of the “German-style” that will become a current model in both Indo-Portuguese and Namban production, but at the time of its Gujarat construction would be a “novelty”. Iron are elementary and of a style yet to be defined, reinforcing the pioneering character of this furniture.
(1) Digby - The Mother of Pearl Overlaid Furniture of Gujarat, the holdings of the Victoria and Albert Museum.em: Facets of Indian Art , Victoria and Albert Museum London, 1986, fig. 9 e 10.