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Borneo Covered Silver Alloy Pedestal Bowl

Coastal Regions, Borneo
early 20th century

height: 19.8cm, diameter: 18.2cm, weight: 684g



Acquired in the UK, from the estate collection of Dr George Yuille Caldwell (1924-2016). Dr Caldwell, an English-born physician moved to Singapore in the 1950s, from where he built up a collection of mostly Borneo-related textiles and other ethnographica.

This elegantly proportioned pedestal bowl and cover at once demonstrates Islamic influence and Chinese influence – befitting the trade-oriented nature of Borneo’s coastal regions. Most probably it is from Sarawak, one of the Malaysian states to share the island of Borneo (along with Indonesia and Brunei).

It sits on a domed, lobed foot, has a shallow, flared and lobed body, and a similar cover or lid which has been surmounted by a prominent bud-like finial. The overall form no doubt is inspired by Chinese export porcelain prototypes, which is often the case with vessels fashioned from metal in Borneo.

The entire decoration, in high relief, is of lotus petals – a motif that encountered in Chinese and the local Islamic aesthetic. Each ‘petal’ has been chased with floral and vegetal scrolls. Some have also been decorated with animals and birds including a tapir-like creature (the Malayan tapir is native to the forests of Borneo).

There is possible that this vessel was used to hold the elements of the betel quid. The lid fits tightly, so it might also have been intended to hold food.

The item is in fine condition.


Fraser-Lu, S., Silverware of South-East Asia, Oxford University Press, 1989.

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