Large, Repoussed Silver Betel Box
Shan People, Burma
diameter: 18.8cm, height: 11.5cm, weight: 363g
This fine, large betel box is of high-grade repoussed, sheet silver. Importantly, it retains the original internal tray of unadorned, beaten silver on which betel receptacles would have sat. (The space is the box beneath the internal tray was for storing betel leaves.)
The outer box and cover are finely decorated with repeated zoomorphic creatures arranged amongst swirling foliage within petal borders and pearled bands.
The base is elaborately decorated with a large stylised and geometric lotus flower motif.
See McGill (2009, p. p. 41) for a similar but smaller and less elaborate example.
The Shan States did not come under British rule until after the Anglo-Burmese war of 1885 and so developed their own stylistic silver-smithing tradition which shows influence from Thailand, China, Laos and Cambodia as well as lower Burma. This betel box falls squarely within that stylistic tradition. It is however larger than most extant examples, and the work less naive.
The box is free of any significant dents. The lid fits evenly and tightly.
McGill, F. (ed.), Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma, 1775-1950, Asian Art Museum, 2009.
Indian Silver 1858-1947, 1999.
private collection, UK
Inventory no.: 1621