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A pair of Sri Lankan Rococo coromandel wood side chairs

Galle, circa 1770-1780

H. 103.5 x W. 51.5 x D. 48.5 cm

The chairs are in the rococo style with shell motive at the top of a wavy splat and later upholstery. Coromandel or calamander wood (Kalumediriya dava) is sometimes called the king of timbers. It is heavy and beautifully figured. The wood is usually brown with black stripes and occasionally black with brown stripes. The tree that provides coromandel wood is the Diospyros quaesita, which used to be abundant in the humid jungles of southern Sri Lanka and was also found along the Coromandel Coast of India. The Dutch discovered the attractive wood in Sri Lanka in the early 18th century and used it, initially locally, but by the end of the 18th century, they also exported it. In the early 19th century, there was such an explosion of demand, especially in England and France, that the slow-growing trees were felled too young and mature trees became scarce. Today the wood is heavily protected, and it is impossible to obtain large pieces.

An identical chair is illustrated in Furniture of the Dutch Period in Ceylon, by R.L. Brohier, Colombo 1993, Plate XI, fig. 3. Brohier dated this type of chair to the early 18th century, which is probably a bit too early. Similar chairs can still be found in the Wolvendaal Church in Colombo today.

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