6137

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Sumatran Minangkabau Cast Brass Money Box

Minangkabau people, Sumatra, Indonesia
19th century

length: 21.4cm, height: 15.5cm, depth: 13cm, weight: 2089g

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Provenance

UK art market

This rectangular cashbox is elaborately cast on all sides with floral and bird motifs. The hinged lid is adorned with a plaited handle with cast humming birds or kingfishers applied to either side. It sits on four feet which give the box an overall architectural quality. A hinge and flange to the front allow the box to be padlocked shut.

It is likely that such boxes were meant as possessions for women.

The Minangkabau were (and still are) matrilineal: family wealth and inheritance passes down through the female line – from mother to daughter bypassing sons. Minang women in the household are keepers of the family’s wealth and savings. Market places were controlled and run by women as well.

It is also likely that they were exported to other parts of Southeast Asia including to the Malay Peninsula where there is a Malay majority population and a Minangkabau minority centred on Negri Sembilan state.

A slightly smaller, related example in the National Museum of Singapore collection is illustrated in Singh (1985, p. 29). Another similar example is in the Tropenmuseum in The Netherlands.

The example here is in excellent condition.

References

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

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