Two Matching Silver Lime Containers
Shan People, Eastern Burma
length (each): 10.2cm, height: 4.5cm, width: 5.3cm, combined weight: 33g
This pair of solid silver boxes of half-moon form are typical of the Shan states of Eastern Burma. Used to hold powdered lime, part of the betel quid, they are repoussed and chased on all sides with typically Shan motifs of miniature deers and birds among foliage within cartouches, and borders of lotus petals and snail-shell curls that are reminiscent of those often used on Buddha images to denote hair curls.
The boxes have hinged lids with hinge rods that are elaborately curled at both ends of the hinge.
Both have similar Burmese script and dates engraved to the base. The dates on both are given as 1277 in the Burmese calendar which approximates to 1915 in the Western calendar.
The Shan States comprise almost a quarter of the territory of modern Burma. Today they are combined into one unitary Shan State for administrative purposes, but in the past comprised more than forty small feudal-like states ruled by Shan princes who had the title ‘Saopha’ or ‘Sawbwa’.
Among the Shan States, Keng Tung and Lai-Kha, were particularly well known for the quality of their silver smithing.
Similar boxes are illustrated in Conway (2006, p. 156). The pair here are in very fine condition and are without losses, dents o repairs.
The Shan: Culture, Arts & Crafts, River Books, 2006.
Private collection, France
Inventory no.: 1801