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Desk: M.3-2016

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Maker: Unknown




Anglo-Indian desk of rosewood inlaid with ivory, with silver handles


History note: Sir Thomas Rumbold, 1st baronet (1736-91), Governor of Madras from 1777-80. On loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum since 2012.

Legal notes

Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of inheritance tax, from the estate of Elizabeth Anne Chubb, Lady Hayter

Measurements and weight

Depth: 62 cm
Height: 76 cm
Width: 113 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Visakhapatnam ⪼ Visakhapatnam ⪼ India

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Allocated (2016) by H.M. Government


18th Century, Mid
Circa 1750 CE - 1760 CE


Although the identities of the Indian craftsmen who made this desk are unknown, we know that it was once owned by the notoriously corrupt British politician and colonial administrator Sir Thomas Rumbold, 1st baronet (1736–91), who was a Director of the East India Company and Governor of Madras (1777–80) before being accused of huge fraud. In the 18th century, these inlaid pieces of furniture from Visakhapatnam were sought after by discerning collectors: Viscount Fitzwilliam (the Museum’s founder) owned a Visakhapatnam bookcase, now in the Peabody Museum, Salem (USA).

From around 1683, Visakhapatnam, a port on India’s east coast, became a centre for the manufacture of 'Anglo-Indian' furniture and textiles made for export to Europe. It is likely that British colonial forces sent British designers to India to teach Indian craftsmen how to apply their traditional ivory-working skills to the production of high-quality furniture of traditional European form. Here, a kneehole desk, a form developed in England in the early 18th century, is decorated with complex ivory inlay, the floral patterns based on Indian plants. They are similar to those found on ‘chintz’ fabrics exported to Europe at the same time.

School or Style


Components of the work

Handles composed of silver
Inlay composed of ivory

Materials used in production


References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.3-2016
Primary reference Number: 208433
Old loan number: AAL.1-2012
Entry form number: 1061
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Thursday 17 March 2016 Updated: Thursday 10 August 2023 Last processed: Friday 8 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Desk" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-04-18 18:38:52

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