5166

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Chased Silver Betel Set with Engraved Octagonal Pewter Stand

Peranakan Chinese Community, Java, Indonesia
late 19th century

height of stand with set: 20cm, width: 19.2cm, combined weight of silver items: 454g

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Provenance

private collection, UK, since the mid-1990s

This impressive betel set and stand would have been made on Java by a local ethnic Chinese silversmith for a Peranakan or localised Chinese-Javanese client.

It comprises five receptacles made of silver to hold the various components of the betel quid, and an octagonal pewter stand of cushion form with tapering sides. The stand includes a fitted pewter cover which sits into the stand. Each sides of the stand is engraved with a phoenix of peacock standing amid shrubbery with leaves and flowers against a tooled background. The use of pewter is unusual, and in fact, this is the first pewter betel stand we have seen. (Ample supplies of tin with which pewter was made were available in Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.)

The silver receptacles include a baluster-form cup and cover joined with a silver chain and the domed cover with a fine phoenix finial. The dome on which the phoenix rests is decorated with a border of betel or sirih leaves, confirming the use of the set. There are two other cups as well, a plain cylindrical container that held the powdered white lime which was an essential part of the betel quid, and a ‘V’-shaped holder for the betel leaves themselves.

Each of the four chased receptacles has been decorated with lobed and other panels that feature the Chinese flowers of the four seasons, plus pomegranates and the finger citrons. The leaf holder is also decorated with humming birds, a deer and a phoenix.

A related set (without a stand) from the Peranakan of Java is illustrated in Jasper & Pirngadie (1930, p. 236).

The set here is in fine condition.

References

Jasper, J.E. & Pirngadie, De Inlandsche Kunstnijverheid in Nederlandsch Indie IV: de Goud en Zilversmeedkunst, 1930.

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