Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

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Writing Box

Mysore, 1903

Sandalwood

48.2 x 65.7 x 51 cm

Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection

22.3106

The box bagged a gold medal for wood carving in the Indian Art Exhibition at Delhi, 1903. It was made by Mistris Shapur Subbrayappa and Sagar Dodda Puttappa, and carvers Ganapati Kesavappa, M. Puttappa, and Veerappa of Mysore. The art of sandalwood carving in the Shimoga district of Mysore was practised by a community known as Gudigars. They were supposed to have migrated from Goa during the Portuguese occupation. The Gudigar community owes its name to the fact that they were originally the hereditary carvers and painters of the temples (gudi).

L. Rice, who made a survey of this craft, states, “The material is hard and minuteness of the work demands the utmost care and patience…. The artists are said to lose their eyesight at an early age.” Sandalwood lends itself to very intricate and fine carving because of its close grain and tough structure. The box is so minutely carved that not even the tiniest portion of its surface is left untouched. It is supported on four elephant-figure legs. The interior of the box is equally intricately carved.

The craftsmanship clearly indicates the influence of Chinese carvings, particularly in the depiction of landscapes, trees, and mountains. The border patterns are charming examples of Chalukyan-style ornamentation.