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Blast from the past

An ongoing exhibition at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum, previously known as the Prince of Wales Museum, takes viewers back to the 19th century, when a number of furniture firms were bringing out items that had a unique blend of Indian and Raj sensibilities.



Called 'Room for Wonder', the exhibition showcases a number of ebony and satinwood pieces, including chairs made of ebony and rosewood, which is now normally seen only in museums like Peabody Essex Museum in the UK and Pettah in Denmark.

According to the organisers of this exhibition, while in the early years of the Raj, most local artisans produced items that resembled the external appearance of their western counterparts while paying little attention to the pieces' structure or function, as the British settlement flourished, Indian craftsmen developed a better sense of their employers' taste.



By the 19th century they were reportedly rivalling the European standards of craftsmanship and many furniture firms opened up in various Indian cities. The majority of the furniture during this period was reportedly made in generally accessible woods such as mahogany, teak, and rosewood, furniture made from ebony was most sought after by indigenous and European consumers. Cabinets made with a combination of Satinwood and ebony are reportedly also found in South India and attributed to the Dutch colonial period in India.

At: Till February 14, Coomaraswamy Hall, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum, Fort

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