Parcel-Gilt Silver Pomander with Rose-cut Diamonds, Sapphires & Malachite
West India or Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
length: 6.7cm, width: 5.9cm, height: 2.5cm, weight: 81 grams
This extraordinary box features some of the finest silverwork encountered. The twelve lobed sides are chased with roses and other flowerheads – work that is similar to the hilts of more elaborate Ceylonese piha-kaetta knives. (See lot 64, Bonhams, ‘Antique Arms & Armour’, Knightsbridge, April 22, 2009 for an example.) The spaces between the lobes are infilled with almost one hundred carefully-matched faceted sapphires.
The domed hinged lid comprises a double-border wall of gilt filigree arabesque open-work of foliate form with interlocking tendrils, set with sixteen larger faceted sapphires and thirty-two rose-cut diamonds in
a jour settings, with a face set with a large oval green malachite plaque carved with two Italian Renaissance-style kneeling, winged putti or cherubs each of whom bares a water pot. The malachite plaque probably was carved in Russia or Europe (the most important source of this type of malachite is the Ural mountains). Plaques like this were used in European jewellery in the early 19th century. A parure set belonging to Queen Sophia of Sweden and which dates to around 1820 features a range of similarly-sized carved malachite plaques embedded in gold settings (see Scarisbrick, Vachaudez & Walgrave, 2008, p. 221 for an illustration.)
The base features a rosette of extraordinarily-fine parcel-gilt filigree scrolling foliage work set with engraved gilded flowers over a finely-tooled gilt backing plate – work that is reminiscent of 17th and 18th century silver-gilt filigree Goa stone or bezoar boxes produced in Goa, West India – all within elaborate filigree parcel-gilt borders.
The interior of the box is doubled-lined and gilded. The lid fits tightly.
The box would have been ideal for holding cloves or some other strong-smelling spice – spices that were grown in southern India and Ceylon – ideal for use as a pomander or as a localised version of a vinaigrette.
Scarisbrick, D., C. Vachaudez & J. Walgrave, Brilliant Europe: Jewels from European Courts, Mercatorfonds, 2008.
Inventory no.: 746