Lacquer painting was an important luxury art in Safavid and Qajar Persia and Mughal India. As with many of the Mughal decorative arts, very few early examples now survive. This painted and lacquered scrutore, or small portable writing cabinet, is one of only two known examples of its type.
The four sides of the cabinet are decorated with spirited scenes of noblemen in Mughal dress on caparisoned horses, hunting various wild beasts, including deer, lion, tiger, fox and crane. The figures are finely painted in a restricted earthly palette, generously heightened with gold, which is also used profusely on the surrounding large and exuberantly burgeoning shrubs and trees, creating dramatic contrasts with the black background. The top has been restored and weakly repainted in a more Persianate style, probably in the 19th century.
Drop-front caskets of this kind probably first appeared in Germany after the middle of the 16th century and soon became popular in Italy, the Iberian peninsula and elsewhere. The commonest Indian type of scrutore is teak-veneered with ivory inlay; examples in other techniques are much rarer.
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