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Throne and footstool 1840-50

Carved ivory, gold, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, gilt bronze, hardwood (? Indian laurel) and embroidered silk velvet | 161 x 97 x 86.5 cm (whole object) | RCIN 1561

Garter Throne Room, Windsor Castle

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Throne and footstool of carved ivory; with an elaborate cresting flanked by rampant elephants, every surface covered with carved plaques enriched with small cabochon gemstones; green velvet coverings with gold and silver embroidery; cabriole legs.

This spectacular throne, the centrepiece of the Indian section in the Great Exhibition of 1851, was presented to Queen Victoria in part to advertise the carving skills of Travancore in southern India. The densely-carved elephant-ivory plaques incorporate Indian and European motifs, and the conch-shell emblem of Travancore forms the cresting.

Travancore was widely regarded in India as one of the leading centres of ivory carving, and successive rulers in the nineteenth century, including Maharajah Martanda Varma (ruled 1847-60), were keen to promote and support this industry. The throne arrived in time to be lent by the Queen to the Great Exhibition, where it occupied the centre of the tented and richly hung Indian section. The Queen particularly noted her 'magnificent chair, carved in ivory' on a visit to the Exhibition with King Leopold of the Belgians on 24 June; and at the closing ceremony in October the throne was prominently placed on the dais at the centre of the Nave for Prince Albert's use. When the Queen became Empress of India in 1876, she chose to be shown seated on the throne at Windsor for her official photograph.

Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010