Two Repoussed Dutch Colonial Silver Betel Cups
Batavia, Dutch East Indies
cup (1) – height: 6.8cm, weight: 101g
cup (2) – height: 6.6cm, weight: 103g
These two beautifully repoussed and exceptionally rare footed betel cups have work that is identical to a betel leaf holder in Voskuil-Groenewegen (1998, p. 75) and quite possibly belong to the same set. Each is worked with scrolling fruit, flower and foliage motifs. The National Museum of Singapore collection holds two water sprinklers catalogued as Malay but almost certainly of colonial Batavian silverwork which also share this motif. Voskuil-Groenewegen attributes this type of work to late seventeenth century Batavia or the Coromandel Coast, but Batavia seems more likely.
The two cups share the same old Dutch assay marks used on foreign-made silver. The outside ring foot of each is stamped with the same mark – a V in a crowned shield. This is the same mark on the betel leaf holder in Voskuil-Groenewegen. Seventeenth century Dutch colonial silver from Batavia is rare.
They are not the same but similar. They are hand-made, which might explain the differences – undoubted they are by different silversmiths. Despite the differences, quite possibly they belonged to the same betel set.
The form of these two cups is similar to a cup (or cups) illustrated in Voskuil-Groenewegen (1998, p. 77).
Betel, a mild social narcotic, was used widely in South and Southeast Asia. Dutch colonial administrators and their wives adopted the habit of chewing betel or
sirih in the seventeenth and eighteenth century and commissioned for themselves betel sets that were similar to those used by indigenous rulers. These two cups appear to be from such a set.
Avieropoulou Choo, A.,
Silver: A Guide to the Collections, National Museum Singapore, 1984.
V.O.C. – Zilver: Zilver uit de periode van de Verenigde Oostinische Compagnie 17de en 18de eeuw, 1983.
et al, La Route des Indes – Les Indes et L’Europe: Echanges Artistiques et Heritage Commun 1650-1850, Somagy Editions d’Art, 1998.
et al, Zilver uit de tijd van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, Waanders Uitgevers, 1998.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 1385
The assay mark on cup (1).