Quatrefoil box

Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, Reign of Shah Jahan, ca. 1650
Mughal School
Red, green, and white enamels with gold
H x W x D: 5.7 x 11.5 x 11.5 cm (2 1/4 x 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 in)
Northern India
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 01: Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent
Container, Metalwork


bird, champleve, engraving, flower, India, Mughal dynasty (1526 - 1858), Reign of Shah Jahan (1628 - 1658)

To 1930s
Imre Schwaiger, London, to 1930s [1]

From 1983 to 1986
Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd., New York City, from 1983 [2]

From 1986
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd. in 1986


[1] Terence McInerney acquired this object from a family that was connected to Imre Schwaiger through business as well as marriage. A member of this family acquired the object from Imre Schwaiger in London in the 1930s. It was the son of this man who sold the object to McInerney in 1983 (see Curatorial Note 6 in object record).

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd.
Imre Schwaiger


Whether indoors or out, the Mughal elite surrounded themselves with flowers. This lobed spice box of pure gold decorated with gleaming enamel was made to hold cardamom pods or stuffed betel-leaves (pan). Such delicacies were often, though not exclusively, eaten as preludes to amorous encounters. On the container's lid, sinuous lilies and furling leaves sway gently beneath the bud of a ruby finial. Similarly delicate flower inlays adorn the Taj Mahal, the marble tomb of Shah Jahan's wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal's four-part garden (chahar-bagh) plan is further evoked by the box's quadripartite form.

Published References
  • D. Fairchild Ruggles. Islamic Gardens and Landscapes. Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture Philadelphia. fig. 79.
  • Artemis Annual Report, 1984-85., 1984-1985. .
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 24, no. 5 Hong Kong, May 1993. pp. 73-74, fig. 15.
  • Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th & 17th Centuries. Exh. cat. Washington, 2007. I-13, p. 241.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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