Enquiry about object: 5042

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Cast Brass Betel or Jewellery Box

Malay People, probably Malaysia
17th-18th century

length: 23cm, width: 11.7cm, height: 10.5cm



UK art market


This splendid cast brass box with a hinged lid would have been used to hold either betel or perhaps jewellery. It is one of the best examples we have seen. It is also one of the earliest. Probably it was cast on the Malay Peninsula or in Sumatra. The designs show a mixture of the Islamic-Malay aesthetic with Chinese influence. It also has some similarities with boxes produced in the southern Philippines, such as among the Islamic peoples of Mindanao and Sulu.

Of rectangular form, it has bevelled edges, a domed, hinged lid, a pierced skirt around all sides, and stands on four brass ‘wheels’.

The decoration includes continuous woven patterning, leafy arabesques and applied brass wire and granulation work in a form known as the telur ikan (‘fish egg’) motif.

The quality of the box continues inside – the interior of the lid has also been cast or chiselled with foliate designs.

The box has a superb patina, lovely wear, and very clear, significant age. It is an excellent piece.


Singh, B., Malay Brassware, National Museum of Singapore, 1985.

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