This set of Thai silver niello bowls is each decorated with two roundels of a cypher using Thai script. Such cyphers became popular among the extended royal family when King Chulalongkorn adopted their use following the European model.
It has not yet been possible to identify whose cypher is depicted on the bowls. It is likely that it is a minor member of the royal family as the cyphers of better known members are more readily identified. Each bowl also is decorated with two further roundels decorated with theppanom figures (Thai Buddhist celestial forest nymphs that inhabit the lower slopes of Mount Meru, the mythical Buddhist mountain that was the abode of the gods.)
Interlocking foliage decorates the spaces between the roundels.
The interiors of each bowl are heavily gilded (Gold plated) providing a pleasing and striking contrast with the exteriors.
The niello technique, whereby silver is chased and then coated in a black enamel-like substance that is then buffed back to reveal the raised silverwork beneath, is thought to have been introduced to Thailand either by the Portuguese or the Persians. Traders from both countries had an early presence in the Kingdom. Niello work became a speciality of the southern Thai city of Nakhon Si Thammarat.
In this instance, the bowls are decorated with the ‘Chudhadhuj’ niello technique which evolved in the early 20th century. This process is associated with Prince Chudhadhuj Dharadilok (1892-1923), a son of King Chulalongkorn, and a former head of the Arts and Crafts College in Bangkok (Bromberg, 2019, p. 53). The technique involved acid etching rather than hand chasing the silver surface of the bowl which allowed more intricate and complex designs to be made.
The base of each bowl is plain other than for a small stamp in Thai script.
Each bowl is without loss to the niello. One bowl has a barely discernible dent but otherwise, the set is in excellent condition.
Bromberg, P., Thai Silver and Nielloware, River Books, 2019.
Byachrananda, J., Thai Mother-of Pearl Inlay, River Books, 2001.
Fraser-Lu, S., Silverware of South-East Asia, Oxford University Press, 1989.
Naengnoi Punjabhan, Silverware in Thailand, Rerngrom Publishing, 1991.