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Rare Malay-Riau Chased Pedestal Bowl with Wayang Figures & Hearts

Riau, Indonesia
early 20th century

height: 15.3cm, diameter: 19.4cm,weight: 250g



private collection, UK

This unusual pedestal bowl is of thinly hammered silver alloy, and is likely to have been made by the Malay people of the Riau islands just beneath the Malay Peninsula.

It comprises a high domed foot, a plain silver stem, and a wide bowl with a crenulated, reinforced rim.

It has been chased all over with foliate scrolls. Interspersed amongst the foliage on both the domed foot and the bowl itself are cartouches filled with wayang figures (wayang figures are based on the wayang kulit or shadow puppets which themselves typically are based on the characters from the Malay-Indonesian version of the Indian epic, the Ramayana.)

The wayang figures around the bowl are separated by six heart-shaped cartouches that are plain and unworked. The heart motif occasionally appears in Malay work –  see for example a pair of Malay wooden clogs that we also are offering. The heart motif probably reflects colonial influence – but the form is not without precedence among Malay motifs as well: it could well be based on the shape of the betel leaf (Piper betle) which has this precise form of a conventionally stylised heart.

The bowl was sourced from within the UK and almost certainly has been in the UK since colonial times. Riau-type silver often is found in the UK, suggesting that whilst it was made in Riau it seems to have been exported in significant quantities to Malay communities in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula, from where it was acquired by British colonial administrators and brought back to the UK as keepsakes.


Jasper, J.E. & Pirngadie, De Inlandsche Kunstnijverheid in Nederlandsch Indie IV: de Goud en Zilversmeedkunst, 1930.

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