A fine Dutch-colonial ebony box with silver mounts


Coromandel Coast, Masulipatnam, or Batavia (Jakarta), 2nd half 17th century

H. 17.8 x W. 33 x D. 22 cm


The low-relief carving of curling vines and large flowers is quite like engravings in Dutch silver of the same period. This type of carving belongs to the earliest type of carving in ebony, ordered by the Dutch in Asia. The Coromandel Coast harboured an important industry for producing carved ebony furniture before the Dutch were there. In the early 17th century, the Dutch presence on the ‘Cust’ became more substantial. They ordered their ‘Custmeubelen’ or coastal furniture here because, initially, that was the only place where they could get the highly favoured ebony furniture. Due to severe famines and many wars on the Coast in the second half of the 17th century, many local furniture makers and other craftsmen had to sell themselves into slavery to the Dutch. Many ended up practising their craftsmanship in Batavia.