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Ivory Lidded Box decorated with Red & Green Enamel

Sri Lanka or India
19th century

height: 9.1cm, diameter: 4.3cm



UK art market

This fine, round box has a domed lid with a pointy finial. The lid screws into the box via a very fine thread, and closes in an airtight fashion. The box and lid are decorated with finely engraved or incised flower and other motifs which have then been filled with red and green colouring.

The underside of the base is also decorated, as is the interior base.

The airtight nature of the container suggests that it might be intended to store something medicinal.

In Sri Lanka and South India, containers for Ayurvedic medicines often were made of precious materials such as ivory and were finely decorated.

Traditional medical practice in Sri Lanka and South India was a combination of Ayurvedic medicine (an ancient Indian medical practice) and Buddhist practice.

Pal (1981, p 101) illustrates a model of a Sri Lankan stupa (dagoba) attributed to the 18th century which shows similar red over-painting as on this piece, but without the rich patina.

The box here is in excellent condition. There is an old, small chip to one side of the base of the finial on the cover, but otherwise there is no other damage.


Pal, P., Elephants and Ivories in South Asia, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1981.

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