This fine colonial document or jewellery box is from late eighteenth century Sri Lanka (and possibly southern India) and is composed of scalloped and bevelled calamander wood, with very finely rendered silver mounts.
The main engraved silver mounts comprise pierced corner plates to the lid and the sides of the box, a pierced key-plate in the form of a coat-of-arms, a pieced handle plate and solid-cast handle to the centre of the lid, a silver lock and silver hinges, and corner decorations to the top of the lid.
The four corner decorations are exceptional – they comprise four finely cast and chased pairs of makara heads – all in high relief. The detailing of the heads rises right off the surface of the lid. It is the first time we have seen mounts such as these and they are a testament to the silversmith’s mastery of his craft.
The key plate comprises the Royal Coat of Arms of the British Monarch beneath which the letters ‘B M A R’ are engraved.
The interior is fitted with two raised smaller compartments to one side.
There are no apparent maker’s marks to the silver. A lock mechanism is present but there is no key.
There are no repairs, chips or cracks: the condition is excellent. The wood has a lustrous patina and its rich colour provides a very pleasing contrast with the silver mounts.
Eliens, T.M., Silver from Batavia/Zilver uit Batavia, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag/W Books, 2012.
Krohn D.L. & P.N. Miller (eds.), Dutch New York Between East and West: The World of Margrieta van Varick, Bard Graduate Center/The New York Historical Society/Yale University Press, 2009.
Veenendaal, J., Furniture from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India During the Dutch Period, Foundation Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara, 1985.
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.