Private English Collection since the 1960s.
Although furniture represented a small part of raw and manufactured exports from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), it was considered a centre of interest for furniture making in the nineteenth century and Ceylonese furniture, characterised by its hybridity of local and western form, elaborately carved and employing rare timbers, was shown at the international exhibitions beginning in 1851 in London. In 1857 two items of furniture from the Celyon section of the Great Exhibition were donated to the South Kensington Museum by the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851. These comprised: ‘Chair. Carved Ebony. An arm-chair, with decoration of scroll foliage. Cingalese, modern, and another identical’. At the 1862 London international exhibition, the Ceylon Court included ‘one Carved Ebony Easy Chair’ and two ‘Ebony Easy chairs’.
Ebony furniture produced in the Galle District at the Southwestern tip of Shri Lanka, was much admired and in his account of Ceylon, published in 1850, H.C. Sirr noted how in Colombo there was available ‘the most exquisitely carved ebony furniture conceivable’. It is not known when easy armchairs such as these were first made on the island, but it is possible they were inspired by designs for similar chairs in Thomas King’s ‘Modern Style of Cabinet Work Exemplified’ (1832). A sketched portrait of Mudaliyar Don Soloman Dias Bandaranaike I (1780-1859) shows him besides a chair of this type (J. E. Tennent, ‘Ceylon, An Account of the Island’, 1859).
Related Galle ebony chairs are at Penrhyn Castle, Powis Castle and Capesthorne Hall. A closely related example is in the Dutch Period Museum, Pettah, Colombo.