Photograph: Luis Pavão

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On display in the Exhibition(s)
Travelling and Exoticism | Trade and cultural interaction
The Ascension of the Bourgeoisie | Trade and Festivities

Name of Object:
Mughal Cabinet
Also known as: Contador Mughal
Date of Object:
16th–17th century
Unknown artist
Type of object:
Domestic furniture
Holding Museum:
National Museum of Ancient Art
Lisbon, Portugal
Period of activity:
End of the 16th century or the early 17th century
Museum Inventory Number:
MNAA / 1312 Mov
Material(s) / Technique(s):
Teak, Indian rosewood and other exotic woods; natural and dyed ivory; lacquer, and brass fittings; feet inlaid and carved
Place of production:
Sind or Gujarat
H: 140 cm; l: 142 cm; w: 60 cm (including feet)
Period / Dynasty
Mughal Dynasty
Workshop / Movement:
Indo-Portuguese furniture with Mughal influence
During the first half of the 16th century, the Indian sub-continent was confronted by two new foreign presences: the Portuguese, who had dominion over the coastal regions and, in the north, the forces that would later become the vast empire of the Mughals. Among the Mughal Emperors, Akbar (r. 1556–1605) stands out. He consolidated his rule and, having gained stability and subsequently reorganised the imperial finances, he demanded from his workshops creations of extraordinary quality. Akbar understood the complex reality of India with its roots in both Hindu and Islamic traditions. The imperial workshops, therefore, produced hybrid objects to reflect this reality, but also revealed the strong artistic influences of the Portuguese missionaries (namely the Jesuits), and of the Chinese and European merchants. Such were Akbar's curiosity and interest in the Christian religion of the Portuguese and their art, that he requested the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in Goa to send a Jesuit mission to his court. A refined artistic style resulted from this fusion, seen not only in paintings but also in textiles, metalwork, clothing and furniture.
This magnificent piece of furniture takes as its prototype Portuguese cabinets which had inspired those made in Goa. The decoration and the materials used are, however, from Mughal sources. The front of the cabinet is inlaid and symmetrical in 12 sections; each section a drawer decorated with human figures among vegetation in either courtly scenes or with animals. The doors are decorated with the Tree of Life, among which branches are mythical birds and elephants. Significantly, beneath, are Portuguese figures – indicated by their clothing – hunting on horseback with long lances.
This cabinet clearly shows the crossover between cultures and illustrates the luxurious items available among the European courts.
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Current Owner:
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
Original Owner:
Col. Burnay
How date and origin were established:
By stylistic analysis
How Object was obtained:
Acquisition in 1936
Selected bibliography:
Maclagan, E., Os Jesuítas e o Grão-Mogol, (trans. A. A. Dória), Porto, 1946.
Silva, M. C., “Obras de arte indo-portuguesas de carácter mongólico,” Garcia de Orta, Lisbon, 1972.
Okada, A. F., Richard, F., Cohen M., A la Cour du Grand Moghol, Paris, 1986.
Pinto, M., Mendes, H., “Art Mogol,” in Via Orientalis, Europalia/91 Portugal, Brussels 1991, pp. 143–8.
Jaffer, A., Luxury Goods from India, London, 2002.
Borges, de Sousa, C., Encompassing the globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th centuries, Washington, 2007, pp. 122–123.
Additional Copyright Information:
Copyright images: Divisão de Documentação Fotográfica/ Instituto dos Museus e da Conservação,I.P.
Citation of this web page:
Conceição  Borges de Sousa "Mughal Cabinet" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2016.;BAR;pt;Mus11_A;23;en
Prepared by: Conceição Borges de Sousa
Translation by: Jane Lusaka, Conceição Borges de Sousa
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PT 26