This very fine, flattened, spherical box with cover is comprised entirely of silver filigree work. It was almost certainly made in the Dutch East Indies, either in Batavia or the west coast of Sumatra, most probably at the behest of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The VOC utlised the work of various silversmithing communities locally, including the local Chinese, local Indians, the Balinese, and almost certainly the Malays and Minangkabau of Sumatra (Brinkgreve & Leijfeldt, 2017).
Such silver filigree was produced by indigenous and local ethnic Chinese artisans for the VOC which exported it to Europe but also to markets within Asia most particularly to India and probably to Ottoman Turkey. The quantity of such filigree work found in India by the time the British arrived led them to assume that it was all produced in India, when in fact, it is more likely that certain types of filigree found locally were luxury trade goods imported from elsewhere in Asia.
The box here comprises a cover with a central round panel filled with white might be termed a ‘scrolling lotus’ flower motifs. The sides comprise eight panels with similar motifs. The fine craftsmanship extends to the base – it too is made up of fine filigree work rather than being a simple plate of sheet silver. The base is similarly made.
It sits on a low ring foot of zig-zag filigigree.
The filigree features a mixture of flatter, thicker wires that form the outline of the designs, with the remaining spaces being filled with finer, twisted and curled silver wires.
This combination of wide, flattened wire components with fine twisted filigree work is found on articles often ascribed (possibly incorrectly) to Goa of the second half of the seventeenth century – see Menshikova (2006, p. 43) for two examples, and Levenson (2007, p. 263-4) for others. Menshikova refers to filigree items of this type as having been made by ‘Chinese masters in India or Southeast Asia’ in the seventeenth century.
The box here is in excellent condition. Only one tiny strands of filigree seems to be missing or out of place – on one side and barely noticeable. Overall, the box is a splendid patina, colour and obvious age.
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Brinkgreve, F. & J. Leijfeldt, ‘The Chinese-Indonesian collections in the National Museum of World Cultures, the Netherlands’, in Wacana, Vol. 18, no. 2, 2017.
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