Matchbox label

20th century (made)

Height: 41 mm, Width: 36 mm

IS.92-2012 SSEA

Matchbox label for ‘Flash Light Deluxe’ matches, India, 20th century

The central image depicts a blue and beige flash light, or torch, shining a red light, on a blue and beige ground divided into triangles. In the top right hand corner are the words ‘Flash Light’ in red with a blue outline, ‘Deluxe’ in blue underneath, ‘Price 10 Ps’ (paise) in blue on the bottom right hand side, and ‘Srithambi Match Industries Sattur’ in red at the bottom.

Indian matchbox covers form part of India’s vibrant popular visual culture. These small boxes, sold for a few pence, are bold and colourful, some simple and naïve, others more complex and detailed. The images range from gods and goddesses, women, flowers, fruits, monuments, transport, tools, consumer goods and more. Successful covers are continuously copied and there can be endless variations of one particular image produced by rival companies. Many covers have a ‘retro’ feel about them because of this copying process, this also makes them difficult to date. Despite their ephemeral nature, they can convey historical, political and social information. Matchbox art dates back to the 1920s when India began producing its own matches from factories in Calcutta in Bengal and Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu. Prior to this, matches were imported from Europe, mainly Sweden, and Japan. Early images reflect themes of nationalism while more recent images include planes, motorcycles and trucks.

Location: In Storage

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