People of Color in European Art History

  1. Inlaid Box for the Portuguese Market featuring Portuguese Nobles and Hunters

    India, Gujarat, probably Ahmedabad (c.1600)

    Islamic Wood (teak); veneered with ebony, inlaid ivory, and laquer

    Ht. 3 2/8 in. (8.3 cm) W. 13 1/2 in. (34 cm) D. 5 11/16 in. (14.5 cm)

    This wooden box in interesting for another perspective on how Europeans were depicted in art from non-European nations. There is a noticeable difference in the way Europeans were depicted here, in comparison with “regular” people in Mughal Art around 1600. These images are comparable with similar depictions of the Portuguese in Nigeria, who also traded heavily with them at that time. The Portuguese hunters have unusually long, pointy noses, large, fan-like ears, and for some reason are bald or nearly bald.

    From the late sixteenth century onward, Mughal India actively exported goods to Europe, particularly to Portugal, where such inlaid work was treasured.

    While many Europeanizing elements are evident in the decoration of this box, the hunting scenes were originally inspired by Persian compositions, which had in turn become popular in Mughal painting. The undulating branches of the bird‑filled trees against which the European hunters and animals have been set make this one of the most expressive pieces of its type.