The cup of this fine betel container dates to the late 17th century Batavia in present-day Indonesia and would have been made for a colonial Dutch client. It is worked in high relief with prominent flower, bud and leaf motifs. Voskuil-Groenewegen (1998) attributes this type of work to late seventeenth century Batavia or the Coromandel Coast, but Batavia seems more likely. Similar work can be seen on Batavian furniture carved around the same time, and on other examples of silver.
Veenendaal (2014, p. 106) illustrates a Batavian silver betel container attributed to 1680-1700 with an almost identical bowl or cup component.
The flared, cone foot, and the cup rim, are of plain hammered sheet silver and most probably are later work.
Betel, a mild social narcotic, was used widely in South and Southeast Asia. Dutch colonial administrators and their wives adopted the habit of chewing betel or sirih in the seventeenth and eighteenth century and commissioned for themselves betel sets that were similar to those used by indigenous rulers.
The betel cup, with its modifications, is in excellent condition.
The Dutch colonial betel leaf container from Batavia in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, is decorated in relief with flowers that relate to the decoration on the betel dish here.
Photographed in July 2013.
This extraordinary carved East Indian Ironwood cabinet (1640-1660) in Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is decorated with floral patterns in relief that relate to the decoration the betel dish here. Photographed in July 2013.
Avieropoulou Choo, A., Silver: A Guide to the Collections, National Museum Singapore, 1984.
Eliens, T.M., Silver from Batavia/Zilver uit Batavia, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag/W Books, 2012.
Haags Gemeentemuseum, V.O.C. – Zilver: Zilver uit de periode van de Verenigde Oostinische Compagnie 17de en 18de eeuw, 1983.
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.
Veenendaal, J., Asian Art and the Dutch Taste, Waanders Uitgevers Zwolle, 2014.
Voskuil-Groenewegen, S.M. et al, Zilver uit de tijd van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, Waanders Uitgevers, 1998.