A rare Pakistani inlaid lacquer and bone Puja box
Punjab provinces, Dera Ismail Khan, 19th century
Overall decorated with scratches to reveal the underlying lacquer layer and open-worked ivory knobs.
Diam. 23 cm / H. 16 cm
Private collection, United Kingdom
Not much is known about this type of lacquer from the Punjab provinces, other than that it is mentioned in Sir George Watt in: Indian Art art Delhi, Being The Offical Catalogue Of The Delhi Exhibition, 1902-1903, 1903 (fig. 7) as "... but of course any assortment or number of colours may be imparted layer upon layer, the one on the top of the other. With a fine chisel or style, the lac-coated surface is now scratched, the hand being made to move lightly or to press heavily as may be necessary to bring out the colour required from the numerous layers beneath the surface. [...] In Dera Ismail Khan, ivory buttons or discs are given as centres for an elaborate and minute floral design."
A Puja box is a box used for offering during Hindu rituals. The different bowls are used to contain rice, holy water, petals, seeds etc. The central bowl with a lid would be used to contain red crimson powder for the red dot on the forehead, which indeed shows some red staining in the box present.
A comparable box is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, however not documented and wrongly described as a spice box.