Inventory no.: 1577

Ceylonese Ebony Ivory Box


Carved Ebony & Ivory Box

Galle District, Sri Lanka


length: 34.6cm, height: 13.8cm, depth: 22cm

This box of solid ebony (Diospyros Celebica) is extravagantly carved on all sides and on the hinged lid with bold flower and scrolling leaf designs. It is a superb example of colonial carved ebony woodwork. It has excellent patina and shows a distinctive metallic lustre associated with the best quality ebony.

It is carved in deep relief on all sides with what is known in Sri Lanka, southern India and the Malay world as a floral pineapple motif. The top is carved a central

kadu-pal (sword fruit) flower motif, plus further pineapple motifs. The ground has been tooled with a fish-scale motif.

Boxes such as these were used locally by ladies to store jewellery and hair ornaments. They were also produced for the colonial market.

Inside the box is a tray of lightly-coloured wood and fine dove-tail joins. It has nine compartments each with a lid inlaid with ivory and ebony. The ivory is engraved with scrolling motifs that has been infilled with black and red lac. Each lid and the tray itself has small ring-pull handles in silver.

The condition of this box is very good. There are no significant splits or losses to the carving. The box is fitted with a brass lock although the key no longer is present. The lock is stamped ‘J. Moreton & Co, South Hampton’. Most probably it is the original lock and was fitted in Sri Lanka.


Coomaraswamy, A.K.,

Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Pantheon Books, 1956.

Veenendaal, J.,

Furniture from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India During the Dutch Period, Foundation Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara, 1985.

Tchakaloff, T.N.

et al, La Route des Indes – Les Indes et L’Europe: Echanges Artistiques et Heritage Commun 1650-1850, Somagy Editions d’Art, 1998.

Jaffer, A.,

Furniture from British India and Ceylon: A Catalogue of the Collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, Timeless Books, 2001.

Inventory no.: 1577


to see another example. Click


A related example at the National Museum of Sri Lanka, Colombo.

Another related example in the National Museum, Galle, southern Sri Lanka.

Related relief in stucco on the exterior of the monastery of Potgul Magila Vihara, central Sri Lanka.