Jewellery Coffer
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Jewellery Coffer

São Roque

Date Mid 17th century

Period 1600-1750, 17th century

Origin Ceylon

Medium Silver mounted, Ivory

Dimension 14.5 x 31 x 20 cm (5³/₄ x 12¹/₄ x 7⁷/₈ inches)

A rare and unusually large silver mounted ivory box, of slightly overlapping flat top standing on four turned bun feet. The case is built with four ivory panels of approximately 1 cm thickness. Two unusually wide panels were joined to make the lid.

All the surfaces are profusely carved in low-relief representing symmetrically arranged vine scrolls and stylized lotus flower buds framed by a narrow beaded frieze which, on the lid, becomes in turn framed by a wider quatrefoil band, characteristic of  Ceylonese decorative compositions.

Independently of its quintessencial Ceylonese character of the decorative motifs, the fineness of the carving is clearly inspired by European prints, and similar to the botanical naturalism seen in the best Mughal low-relief stone carvings produced during the reings of Emperor Jahangir (r.1605-1627) and Shah Jahan (r.1628-1658).

Identical refinement and decoration is evident in the sophisticated and dense pierced, embossed and chased silver mounts, which highlight the contrast betweeen the metal and the smooth ivory surfaces, contributing to the aesthetic fusion of the decoration, while simultaneously hiding the ivory panels joining lines.

In its quality this coffer is similar to the best examples that were produced in Ceylon for the Portuguese market until approximately 1658, namely the ivory, tortoiseshell or gilt copper veneered boxes and cabinets, such as the small table cabinet with doors, dating from the first half of the 17th century, at the Ashmolean Museum of Art in Oxford (inv. nº. EA1976.6). Another important example of this veneered, openwork pieces of furniture, similar to the present one and adopting a similar shape, decoration (albeit of less refinement) and identical silver mounts, dating tot he second-half of the 17th century, can be seen in the collection of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum (inv. nº. BK-1971-30).

Hugo Miguel Crespo
Art Historian, CH-FLUL

Date: Mid 17th century

Period: 1600-1750, 17th century

Origin: Ceylon

Medium: Silver mounted, Ivory

Dimension: 14.5 x 31 x 20 cm (5³/₄ x 12¹/₄ x 7⁷/₈ inches)

Provenance: A.S.P. Collection, Oporto

Literature: Crespo, Hugo Miguel, Choices, Lisboa, AR-PAB, 2016, pp. 202-211, cat. nº. 18

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São Roque

Fine Furniture, Silver, Portuguese Tiles and Ceramics, Arts of the Portuguese Expansion, Chinese Porcelain, Fine Arts

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