Engraved Silver Dutch Colonial Tobacco or Betel Box
Batavia, Dutch East Indies
length: 12.9cm, width: 6.6cm, height: 4.3cm, weight: 137g
This silver box is in the shape of early Dutch tobacco boxes. Manufactured in the Dutch East Indies, most probably Batavia, it is undoubtedly of local Chinese workmanship. (Chinese made up a high proportion of the residents of eighteenth century Batavia when it was under Dutch colonial control.)
The box, in rectangular prism form, has a hinged lid and is engraved on all sides, including the lid, with scrolling chrysanthemum or orchid and other flower motifs. The central panel of the lid also is engraved with a deer, a bird and a bat, the bat emerging from stylised clouds. The background is lightly cross-hatched, although this appears to have worn with time.
The base is marked with maker’s or assay marks but no longer are these legible.
The form of this box continued into the twentieth century, but an eighteenth century dating is suggested by the patina of the box, and the style and lack of depth of the engraving which is more typical of seventeenth and eighteenth century Batavian colonial silver. The marks, though illegible, are likely to be colonial in type rather than say Chinese shop marks.
V.O.C. – Zilver: Zilver uit de periode van de Verenigde Oostinische Compagnie 17de en 18de eeuw, 1983.
et al, Zilver uit de tijd van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, Waanders Uitgevers, 1998.
UK private collection
Inventory no.: 1353
The mark to the base.