|Sri Lanka, 16th-17th century & 18th century|
This extremely rare coconut shell ornament, in the form of a half-sphere, is carved with very fine open-work showing a woman, in European-style dress, amid scrolling foliage, flowers and bunches of grapes. The carving work is that of seventeenth and even sixteenth century Ceylon and is in the style of the elaborately carved ivory caskets produced in Kotte for export to the Portuguese and other Western European markets in the sixteenth century. Some of these were embellished with sapphires and other precious stones. Many feature a mixture of Sri Lankan and European themes, scenes which seem to have been based on woodcuts produced by European artists such as Albrecht Durer (Moura Carvalho, 2008, p. 25) as well might be the case with this piece.
The carving on the coconut is clear and crisp and has developed an excellent patina over the centuries. The woman shown has close-cropped hair and a pleated dress gathered in at the waist, with a wide collar or cape and puffy sleeves. She wears a bracelet on each arm, or these might represent the cuffs of further sleeves of an under garment. It is possible that the wide collar is in fact a manthe, a traditional short frilled cape worn by both Kandyan men and women, and that the figure rather than being Western, is a Kandyan woman wearing Portuguese-influenced dress. In any event, the precise nature of the dress is difficult to pinpoint as so many styles were worn by Sri Lanka's many ethnic groups and each was influenced by outside styles over the centuries. Colombo Chetty women, for example, traditionally wore jackets with puffy upper arms and shoulders (Vangeyzel, 2008.)
The surrounding foliage appears to be based on a grape vine, suggesting that the scene is based on a European woodcut.
The scene is embellished by five rose-cut white sapphires mounted in high-carat gold box settings affixed to the shell.
The shell ornament is contained within a square wooden box, which has the dimensions of an early chronometer box. The top cover is inset with a silver and gold open-work roundel featuring the sacred goose (hamsa) amid vibes and flowers. An inset pink sapphire serves as the hamsa's eye. This is surrounded by inlaid bone strips.
The interior of the box is lined with red and yellow velvet, and has a dome in the base over which the shell ornament fits closely. The box probably is later than the coconut ornament and dates probably to the eighteenth century.
The box has one minor external chip but is otherwise in very good condition. The coconut shell ornament is in extremely fine condition with no losses, cracks or chips.
|Location of Origin: Middle East / Western Asia / Northern Africa|
|Medium/Materials: gold, silver sapphires, wood, coconut shell|
|Dimensions: dimensions of box: 12cm x 12cm x 6.3cm; diameter of coconut disk: 8.3cm, height: 3cm|
|Primary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : Other|
|Secondary Classification: Asian Art : South East Asian Antiques|
|The carved coconut shell is in the genre of such carved shells from sixteenth and seventeenth century Sri Lanka. See Lot 220 in Sotheby's 'Arts of the Islamic World' October 6, 2010 for a small carved coconut but without embellishment with gems and attributed to the sixteenth century.|
References:Jordan, A., & J. Beltz, Elfenbeine aus Ceylon: Luxusguter fur Katharina von Habsburg (1507-1578), Museum Rietberg, 2010.Moura Carvalho, P., Luxury for Export, Gutenberg Periscope Publishing, 2008.Vangeyzel, G.E., Traditional Textiles in the Colombo National Museum, National Museum of Sri Lanka, 2008.
|Provenance: UK 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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