Batavian Dutch Colonial Betel Box, A Fine Batavian Tortoiseshell Betel Box Or (Sirih) Casket With (Marked) Silver Mounts, Batavia (Jakarta), (Dutch East Indies) Indonesia, 1700 -1734 AD.

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Batavian Dutch Colonial Betel Box, A Fine Batavian Tortoiseshell Betel Box Or (Sirih) Casket With (Marked) Silver Mounts, Batavia (Jakarta), (Dutch East Indies) Indonesia, 1700 -1734 AD.

This box is clearly a superb example of colonial craftsmanship, elaborated in Batavia (Indonesia, Dutch East Indies) under the Dutch occupancy. Known as betel or Sirih boxes, related examples can be seen in the Peabody Essex Museums, the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague and the Museum Rotterdam.

The rectangular hinged-cover box is made of tortoise-shell and silver mounts, sits on four spool-shaped silver feet. The casket’s corners and angles are applied with cusped silver mounts, in the form of stylised clouds or floral arrangements of Chinese influence; and the bolts used to support the interior elements of the box are finished with prominent silver semi-spheres. The front of the box is decorated with the aforementioned bolt covers and a central floral shape lock plate fitted with the original key, which is attached to a large chain. The sides present also floral medallions with a pair of swing handles. Two large palm-like silver hinge flanges are found attached to the interior of the lid, which consequently is supported by a fine chain.

Notably, the box is marked in these flanges with the Batavia city (Jakarta) mark based upon an upright sword in a laurel wreath. Further marks are ‘K’ =letter K with a dot the silversmith was active between (1700-1728) and IVC the silversmith was active between (1710-1744).

Exquisite boxes such as these, were used by the new Dutch administration that arrived to Java in the 16th century, after they adopted the tradition of chewing betel—a local custom of prime importance rooted in the hospitality tradition in the region. The boxes would be used to store the betel leaves and other materials for its preparation. Therefore, these new Dutch elite commissioned local artisans (of various origins, including Chines, Dutch, Malay, Indians, and so on) to work on lavish boxes of materials such as wood, tortoise-shell, ivory, silver or gold; and its ownership appears to have been a luxury only available to the Dutch administration. Few of these boxes ended up in several collections around the Netherlands, New York, Sri Lanka and Russia.

For related items to this box see:

Batavian Silver, By Titus M. Eliens, Gemeentemuseum Den Hag, 2012, ISBN: 978 90 400 0361 5, W books, For related Sirih or Betel boxes please see illustrations and text in pages 21-26 & lot No. III36 illustrated in pages 68-71.
For silver mark K, please see illustration 81 pages 139-143.
For silver mark IVC, please see illustration 73 pages, 124-131.

Domestic Interiors at the Cape and in Batavia, 1602-1795, Waanders Uitgevers, Zwolle/Gemeeentemmuseum Den Haag, 2002, ISBN: 90 400 8715 6. Please see the similar 18th. Century tortoiseshell box lot figure No. 28 illustrated in page 40.

Museum Rotterdam, Koloniaal schildpadkistje, 73443-A-D

Deborah L. Krohn & Peter N. Miller (eds.), Dutch New York Between East and West: The World of Margrieta van Varick, Yale University Press, 2009, 252

Jan Veenendaal, Asian Art and the Dutch Taste, Waanders Uitgevers Zwolle, 2014, p. 119.

Sotheby’s London, Lot 105 Casket Dutch Colonial, Indonesia, 17th century, 2013 July

Christie’s London, Lot 91 A Tortoiseshell, Silver and Gold Mounted Casket, 2015 October

Christie’s Amsterdam, Lot 980 A Dutch Colonial silver-mounted amboyna casket, 2010 December

Christie’s Amsterdam, Lot 100 A Dutch Colonial Silver Mounted Tortoiseshell Sirih Casket, 2011 March

Lot 173 A Dutch Colonial tortoiseshell silver-mounted sirih-casket, 2009 April

Condition: Very good, minor wear and tear.

21 cm width.
10 cm height.
16 cm depth.
  • Identification Number: 354

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