Gujarat Ornamental Furniture: Artisans, Techniques, Skills and Global Markets During the Nineteenth Century

  • Louiza Rodrigues
Part of the Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies book series (IOWS)


The traditional ornamented furniture of Gujarat and its makers covered a metamorphosed journey in the nineteenth century. The growing interest of European consumers towards Indian carved and inlaid furniture led, in spite of local socio-economic issues, to the revival and reshaping of the traditional furniture from Ahmedabad and Surat. Through the intermediary of Bombay’s activity and due to the increasing role of the International Exhibitions, a modern craft product known as “Anglo-Indian furniture” was created. This paper focuses on the characteristics and development of a practical knowledge, the Gujarati carved and inlaid furniture. The paper shows how the artisans exhibited their innate ability to adapt to situations and how they employed their skill and artistic sensibilities to meet western aesthetic demand, thereby creating a hybridized form of furniture.


Archival Sources

  1. Maharashtra State Archives. General Department, Bombay: Vol. 21 of 1871.Google Scholar
  2. Maharashtra State Archives, General Department, Bombay: Vol. 37 of 1855.Google Scholar
  3. Maharashtra State Archives, General Department, Bombay: Vol. 38 of 1853.Google Scholar
  4. Maharashtra State Archives, General Department, Governor in Council Bombay: 16 April 1856, Vol. 49 of 1856.Google Scholar
  5. Maharashtra State Archives, General Department, Madras: Vol. 15 of 1863.Google Scholar
  6. Maharashtra State Archives, Official Report of the Calcutta International Exhibition 1883–84, Vol. I. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press, 1885.Google Scholar
  7. Maharashtra State Archives Parliamentary Papers, P.R. Hunt, 1850: Indian Journal of Arts, Sciences, & Manufactures. American Mission Press, Part Four.Google Scholar
  8. Maharashtra State Archives. Revenue Department. Bombay: Vol. 134, 1846.Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Auerbach, J., and A. Hoffenberg (eds.). 2008. Britain, the Empire and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851. London: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  2. Barton, F.R. 1924, June 14. “Zanzibar Doors.” Man 24: 81–83.Google Scholar
  3. Birdwood, George C.M. 1880. The Industrial Arts of India, vols. I and II. London: Chapman and Hall.Google Scholar
  4. Bottomore, Tom. 1964. Elites and Society. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Buist, George. 1856. “Account of some of the East-India Arts and Manufactures, with Specimens of the Tools and Manufactured Articles, including Salt, Bombay or Moultan Inlaid Work, Gold Wire, Gold Lace and Spangles, Cambay Stones, and Calico-Printing.” Read before the Society 27th Feb 1854. Transactions of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts, vol. IV, 238–249. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black.Google Scholar
  6. Dyson, K.K. 1978. A Various Universe: A Study of the Journals and Memoirs of British Men and Women in the Indian Subcontinent 1765–1856. Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency: Surat and Broach. 1887. Bombay: Government Central Press.Google Scholar
  8. Haynes, Douglas. 2012. Small Town Capitalism in Western India: Artisans, Merchants and the Making of the Informal Economy, 1870–1960. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. ———. 2015. “Surat City, Its Decline and the Indian Ocean, 1730–1940.” In Port Towns of Gujarat, edited by Keller Sara and Pearson Michael, 31–42. Delhi: Primus.Google Scholar
  10. Head, Raymond. 1988. “Indian Crafts and Western Design from the Seventeenth Century to the Present.” RSA Journal 136, no. 5378: 116–131.Google Scholar
  11. Jaffer, Amin. 2001. Furniture from British India and Ceylon: A Catalogue of the Collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum. New Delhi: Timeless Books.Google Scholar
  12. Jones, R. 2004. “‘Furnished in English Style’: Anglicization of Local Elite Domestic Interiors in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) c. 1850–1910.” South Asian Studies 20: 45–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lewis, Anne Suydam. 1976. Lockwood de Forest: Painter, Importer, Decorator. New York: Heckscher Museum.Google Scholar
  14. Mayer, R. 2008. Lockwood de Forest: Furnishing the Gilded Age with a Passion for India. Cranbury, USA: Rosemont Publishing and Printing Corporation.Google Scholar
  15. McMaster, Gerald. 1969. “Tenuous Lines of Descent: Indian Arts and Crafts of the Reservation Period.” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies IX, no. 2: 205–236.Google Scholar
  16. Mitter, Partha. 1977. Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Noronha, Percival. 2000. “Indo-Portuguese Furniture and Its Evolution.” In Goa and Portugal: History and Development, edited by Borges Charles, Pereira Guilherme, and Stubbe Hannes, 183–196. Delhi: Concept Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  18. Raymond, H. 1988. “Indian Crafts and Western Design from the Seventeenth Century to the Present.” The Royal Society of Arts Journal 136, no. 5378: 116–131.Google Scholar
  19. Rodrigues, Louiza 2006–2007. “Dr. Alexander Gibson and the Emergence of ‘Conservationism’ and ‘Desiccationism’ in Bombay: 1838 to 1860.” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 67: 655–665.Google Scholar
  20. Roy, Tirthankar. 1999. Traditional Industry in the Economy of Colonial India. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rybczynski, Witold. 2016, August 23. “Sitting Up.” The Paris Accessed on 10.02.2018.
  22. Saxena, Aditya. 2015. “Ports of Gujarat Far and Near: Cultural Continuum, A Study in Urban Morphology, c. 1500–c. 1750.” In Port Towns of Gujarat, edited by Keller Sara and Pearson Michael, 231–257. New Delhi: Primus.Google Scholar
  23. Shah, Kunjlata. 2016. Ahmedabad: A Society in Transition (1818–1914). Mumbai: Popular Prakashan Ltd.Google Scholar
  24. Shimbo, Akiko. 2015. Furniture Makers and Consumers in England, 1754–1851. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Style, J. 1993. “Manufacturing, Consumption and Design in Eighteenth-Century England.” In Consumption and World of Goods, edited by John Brewer and Roy Porter, 527–554. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Thakkar, J. 2004. The Art of Wood Carving of Traditional Houses of Gujarat: A Focus on Ornamentation. Ahmedabad: School of Interior Design.Google Scholar
  27. Trivedi, R.K. 1965. Wood Carving of Gujarat, Census of India 1961, vol. V. Part VII-A (2). New Delhi: Directorate of Census Operations, Gujarat.Google Scholar
  28. Unwin, S. 1988. “The Origins and Categories of ‘Arab’ Chests: With Particular Reference to Oman.” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 18: 155–161.Google Scholar
  29. Wales, J.A.G. 1902. A Monograph on Wood Carving in the Bombay Presidency. Bombay: Government Central Book Depot.Google Scholar
  30. Williamson, T. 1810. The East India Vade-Mecum, vol. I. London: Black, Perry and Kingsbury.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louiza Rodrigues
    • 1
  1. 1.Ramnarain Ruia Autonomous CollegeMumbaiIndia

Personalised recommendations