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This container, which has been hand-hewn from a log of light wood, stands on a flat foot and widens towards its top, has been carved from wood and painted in red, black, yellow and gold hues and lacquered. The motifs used could be interpreted as stylised peonies, but equally could be a local flower favoured by the Malays.
The work is typical of the lacquer work seen in South Sumatra, around Palembang, and usually is attributed to the presence of an old peranakan Chinese community in Palembang.
Once patterns of ink and gold leaf were applied to a base of red, yellow and black paint, the whole lot was then coated with a clear lacquer resin. Items so lacquered were then waterproof and so could be used for food storage and serving, and also in connection with boating and fishing.
The item here has a reinforced rim and a small hole has been drilled near the rim, perhaps to allow the container to be suspended. It is possible that the container was used to store food – suspension off the floor was typical for food storage containers. Equally, it stands unaided on its own as well.
There is some age-related rubbing to the lacquer and paintwork. Overall, the container is decorative and an unusual example of Palembang lacquer-work.
Brinkgreve, F,. & R. Sulistianingsih (eds), Sumatra: Crossroads of Cultures, KITLV Press, 2009.
Brinkgreve, F., & D.J. Stuart-Fox (eds), Living with Indonesian Art: The Frits Liefkes Collection, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, 2013.