Burmese Silver, A Large And Rare Repousse Silver Betel Nut Box Decorated With Stories From The Ramayana (The Marriage Of Sita And Rama), Rangoon, Burma Or Myanmar, Circa 1910-1920s.

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Burmese Silver, A Large And Rare Repousse Silver Betel Nut Box Decorated With Stories From The Ramayana (The Marriage Of Sita And Rama), Rangoon, Burma Or Myanmar, Circa 1910-1920s.

Of a rectangular form, all the exterior exposed surfaces of the silver casket had been chased and carefully repoussed with lavish Burmese motifs and religious Hindu scenes from the Ramayana.

Many of the scenes are inspired in the traditional art of lacquer painting. This technique consists in first marking with charcoal and etching with an engraver the silver surface. Later, the master silversmith hammers it to obtain the relief figures.

The sides are surrounded by twelve panels contained in cartouches formed by flat bands intertwined by scrolling foliage.
Each cartouche depicts figures garbed in local traditional costumes of Burma.
The slightly domed lid of this piece is in perfect condition and hinged with the lower section of the box.
The central and largest scene on the box lid represents the marriage of Sita and Rama, showing the pouring of water from a teapot like vessel as a clear indication of reaching to an agreement and the sealing of a deal.

The figures have been represented as royal attire and his consort, sitting on a dais, while different courtiers are prostrated on the floor. The action takes place against a palace and landscape scenario. Court designs (nan-dwin) became very popular during the Mandalay period (1857-85) and particularly the Kon-baung Dynasty.

The Box surfaces are decorated and composed of different bands of foliate scrolling flowers (dha-zin-gwe and maw-pan), bead-like design (yew-dan) and plain cartouches known as biulu-gwin.

This box is characteristic of the Rangoon work, since as Tilly observed, silversmiths in other parts of the country seemed unable to make such small and detailed figures.
Although one of the most prevalent artefacts in Burmese silverware were boxes, these do not usually appear in the market when compared to the more common bowls. Foreign visitors to Burma in the 18th and 19th centuries, like Symes, already noted silver crafts working on betel or lime boxes, amongst other things. These were used in the palace, the house of wealthy families or anyone who could afford the cost of such items. Moreover, silver boxes were considered an appropriate gift in weddings and for any relevant achievement such as the coming of age.


The box is in a very good condition, with little wear and polishing of the surface, which allows for perfectly visible chiselled details.

Dimensions: 33cm Width.
17cm Deep.
10.2cm height.


For a later Burmese silver box see:
The British Museum, Burmese box, museum number 2003,1001.1.

Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Silverware of Southeast Asia, Oxford University Press, 1989.

Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.

Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Burmese Lacquerware, Weatherhill, 2002.

Harry L. Tilly, The Silverwork of Burma by with photographs by P Klier, Rangoon 1902
Wynyard R. T. Wilkinson, Indian Silver 1858-1947: Decorative Silver from the Indian Sub-Continent and Burma Made by Local Craftsmen in Western Forms, W Wilkinson & Indar Pashrical Fine Arts, London, 1997.

Wynyard R T Wilkinson, Mary-Louise Wilkinson and Barbara Harding, Burmese Silver from the Colonial Period, Arts of Asia, May-June 2013

  • Identification Number: 332

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