The precise use of this item is unclear. It might have been used as a measure, or perhaps as a staff. An eighteenth century drawing of the King of Kandy, seated and holding a staff of similar proportions, is illustrated in Zandvlieyt (2002, p. 256). The staff or sceptre is a symbol of his power. But then perhaps it was used as a particularly elegant way to measure out bolts of cloth.
But it is clearly Sri Lankan, probably from Kandy or its environs. It is a beautifully produced item, of ebony, and carved on each of its eight sides with fine scrolling flower and leaf patterns.
The patina of the item suggests an 18th century dating or perhaps earlier. Gundestrap (1991, p. 25) illustrates an octagonal ‘staff’ in ebony but without carving that entered The Royal Danish Kunstkammer collection in 1694.
The item here is in excellent condition with no significant losses, cracks or repairs.
Gundestrap, B., The Royal Danish Kunstkammer 1737, Volume 2, Nationalmuseet, 1991.
Zandvlieyt, K. et al, The Dutch Encounter with Asia 1600-1950, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 2002.