Dutch Colonial, A Fine Batavian Tortoiseshell Betel Box Or (Sirih) Casket With Silver Mounts, Batavia (Jakarta), (Dutch East Indies) Indonesia, Circa -1759-1800 AD.

Identification Number: 579


This box is clearly a superb example of colonial craftsmanship, elaborated in Batavia (now a days is known as Jakarta in Indonesia, Dutch East Indies) under the Dutch occupancy.

These boxes or containers are known as betel or Sirih boxes.

The rectangular hinged-cover box is made of tortoise-shell and silver mounts, the box sits on four spool-shaped silver feet. The casket’s corners and angles are applied with cusped silver mounts, in the form of stylized vegetal and floral arrangements such as various types of typical local lotus blossoming flower tops and other Chinese influence designs.

The bolts are 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.

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 also beautifully decorated with fine silver openwork and blossoming lotus flower decorations, the Lid is consequently supported by a fine silver chain to the lower case.

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.

Also such boxes would also 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 the Chinese, Dutch, Malay, Indians, Ceylonese 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.

Related Betel boxes can be found at major world collections and Museums such as in the Netherlands, Singapore, New York, Sri Lanka and Russia etc.


17.5 cm is the width.
11.5 cm is the height.
7 cm is the depth.


Very good, minor wear and tear, the original key is missing, silver tarnishing.


The European Art Market.


For other related Sirih boxes which was probably made at the same time, please see the following:
1-For the closest similarly decorated silver openwork mounts on a similar Tortoiseshell Sirih, please see
Asian Art & Dutch Taste, by Jan Veenendaal, 2014 Waanders Uitgevers Zwolle, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, ISBN: 978 94 6262 0001.
Lots 184 & 185 illustrated on pages 119-120, also please see other related examples under the subject of BOXES FOR BETEL & BIBLES, illustrated on Pages 118-121.
2-Batavian Silver, By Titus M. Eliens, Gemeentemuseum Den Hag, 2012, ISBN: 978 90 400 0361 5, W books, for a similar bible box but made in ebony please see illustrations and text in pages 21-27.
3-Jan Veenendaal, Furniture from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India During the Dutch Period, Foundation Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara, 1985, pages 86-90.
4-Port Cities, Multicultural Emporiums of Asia, 1500-1900, By Peter Lee, Leonard Y, ASndaya, Barbara Watson Andaya, Gael Newton, Alan Chong, ACM (Asian Civilisation Museum), Singapore, 2018, ISBN: 978-981-11-1380-2.
Please other related Betel Nut Containers or Boxes, Lots 156, 164, 165, 166, 167 Catalogued on pages 199, 204, 205, 206 & 207.
5-Domestic Interiors at the Cape and in Batavia 1602-1795 AD., by Monique Van De Geijn- Verhoeven, Antonia Malan, Karel Schoeman, Jan Veenendaal, Deon Viljoen, Nigel Worden & Titus M. Eliens (ed), Waaanders Uitgevers, Zwolle/ Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2002, ISBN: 90-400 8715 6 (English) please see lot 28 catalogued on page 40.
6- Asian Splendor, Company Art In The Rijksmuseum, by Jan Van Campen & Ebeltje, Hartkamp-Jonxis, Walburg Pers, 2011, ISBN: 978.90.5730.742.3, Please see the related Sirih boxes lot no. 41 catalogued on pages 64-65.
7-Furniture from British India and Ceylon, by Amin Jaffer, A catalogue of the collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, 2011, ISBN: 1 85177 318 5, The V&A Publications, London, please see lot No. 190 illustrated on page 383.
Other related examples, which were offered for sale at various auction houses around the world:
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 or Betel Casket, 2009 April.

Related Antiques

  • A Macassar Ebony Book Shaped Bible Box Fitted With Silver Mounts For The Dutch Market, Galle District, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), 18TH-19TH Century.

  • Dutch Colonial Bible Box, A Rare Ceylonese Tortoiseshell Book Shaped Bible Box With Silver Mounts, Galle District, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), 18TH-19TH Century

  • Dutch Colonial Bible Box, A Rare Ceylonese Carved Ebony Bible Box With Silver Mounts for the Dutch Market, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Probably The Galle District, Circa 18TH-19TH Century.