|Dutch Colonial Batavia, Indonesia, 18th century|
This amboyna burr wood betel box with silver mounts comes from eighteenth century East Indies, probably Batavia. It was used to hold the elements for the betel quid. The interior would have had internal divides to hold the various quid ingredients but these are no longer present.
Each external corner of the box is covered with sheet silver which incorporates finely worked silver openwork in the form of scrolling flowers and foliage. The top of the hinged lid has a central openwork silver plaque. The key plate on the front is similarly decorated. The back of the box has two openwork plaques which incorporate the rivets used to secure the hinges inside to the body of the box. The hinges inside splendidly mirror the elaborate silverwork of the outside.
The lock and the internal hinges are secured to the box by rivets disguised on the outside of the box as small applied silver flowers.
The box here is well proportioned and is in fine condition given its age. The contrast between the burr wood and the silver mounts which have obvious age is pleasing. Overall, this example is utterly charming.
|The Javanese habit of chewing betel was adopted by the local Dutch and exquisite boxes to hold the nut, the betel leaf and the other accompaniments were commissioned by the Dutch. The Dutch realised early on how important betel was to the indigenous people and how it was an essential part of hospitality including with the indigenous rulers. They quickly incorporated betel use with their dealings with local elites.|
The fashion for luxurious betel accoutrements and other finery saw the governor-general in Batavia Jacob Mossel issue a decree in 1754 stating that only the wives and widows of the governor-general, the director-general, members of the Council of the Indies and president of the Justice Council were permitted to use gold or silver betel boxes adorned with precious stones, (Zandvlieyt, 2002, p. 206).
The filigree work on this box suggests that it has come from or been made by an artisan who came from the Padang area on the west coast of Sumatra. Such filigree work was known in Batavia at the time as 'Westcust werk' (Veenendaal, 1995, p. 88). The flower-shaped silver rivet heads on this box are not unlike the star-head rivets used on a box illustrated in Voskuil-Groenewegen (1998, p. 68), which is attributed to eighteenth century Batavia.
The shapes of the mounts might well be after stylised cloud motifs used in Chinese silverwork. Much Sumatran art shows Chinese influence, as is common elsewhere in the Malay world. The box sits on four rounded feet which may be later replacements and has two cast silver handles to either side.
Amboyna wood (pterocarpus indicus) comes from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia. It is a highly durable wood, so ideal for use in betel boxes, and is resistant to termites and other insects. Amboyna wood shavings are said to turn water fluorescent blue. Amboyna burr wood comes burls on the roots of the tree and is highly prized for its decorative qualities.
Colonial betel boxes of this form with finely drawn silver mounts are rare. A related example is illustrated in Tchakaloff et al (1987, p. 117).
Haags Gemeentemuseum, V.O.C. - Zilver: Zilver uit de periode van de Verenigde Oostinische Compagnie 17de en 18de eeuw, 1983.
Veenendaal, J., Furniture from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India During the Dutch Period, Foundation Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara, 1985.
Tchakaloff, T.N. et al, La Route des Indes - Les Indes et L'Europe: Echanges Artistiques et Heritage Commun 1650-1850, Somagy Editions d'Art, 1998.
Voskuil-Groenewegen, S.M. et al, Zilver uit de tijd van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, Waanders Uitgevers, 1998.
Zandvlieyt, K. et al, The Dutch Encounter with Asia 1600-1950, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 2002.
|Provenance: Dutch art market|
|Price:||Item has been sold.|
|Offered By:||Items for sale from dealers we worked with previously|
121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
Item has been sold.
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