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A Dutch-colonial Indonesian small Albizia adoratissima, Nangka and Ambalo wood Lady’s tambour bureau with brass mounts
Batavia (Jakarta) or Palembang, late 18th century


H. 129.5 x W. 70 x D. 39 cm

The tambour desk or bureau à cilindre came into fashion in the Dutch East Indies of the late 18th century, when French forms prevailed in the Netherlands. The carvings on the apron and the stiles on the sides and at the top of the central stile are typical Indonesian designs. This small piece of furniture is not a miniature but was probably used as a regular bureau-cabinet by colonial society women of Indonesian-European descent. They usually are smaller than European women and often didn’t use chairs but sat or kneeled, and even slept on the floor for coolness. Earlier that century Dutch-colonial Indonesian and Cape Dutch bureaus were based on English Georgian models with plain sloping fall fronts.

A similar, but large sized example of a tambour desk is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (inv. BK-2002-16).

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