Pair of Large Mother-of-Pearl Oyster Shells with Silver Mounts
width when open: 39.5cm, height: 22cm, weight: 1,154g
This rather splendid and remarkable item comprises two large and highly lustrous mother-of-pearl oyster shells connected by means of a silver hinge shaped on the inside like a butterfly, with two exceptionally well-cast and chased figures astride equally well-rendered horses attached to the insides of the shells. One of the figures appears to be a prince. The other is possibly a malicious spirit who wears a demon mask atop his head, but who functions more as a guardian figure in Burmese Buddhism.
The two shells close, bivalve-like. The hinge on the outside is engraved on one side with the initials ‘M.P.K.’ and with the year ‘1902’ on the other.
Around 1900, items were being made in Burma from mother-of-pearl – the shells were obtained from southern Burma in the Mergui district (Fraser-Lu, 1994, p. 116).
The item is in perfect condition. There is no loss to the shell – no fritting or cracks. And the silverwork is among the highest level of colonial Burmese silver-smithing.
The item is decorative only and would have been produced around 1900 as a keepsake for a colonial visitor.
Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.
Burmese Buddhist Sculpture: The Johan Moger Collection, White Lotus, 1991.Provenance:
UK art market
Inventory no.: 3451