A fine ebony Dutch-colonial document box with brass mounts
Coromandel Coast, or Batavia (Jakarta), late 17th century
H. 11.5 x W. 40 x D. 27 cm
This low relief carving of curling vines and large flowers and leaves belongs to the earliest type of carving, ordered by the Dutch in India. Due to many famines and wars at the ‘Kust’ or Coromandel Coast in the second half of the 17th century, some local furniture makers were forced to sell themselves to the Dutch, ending up in the VOC workshops in Batavia. Furniture like this box is often condemned by people as outings of colonialism and slavery but perhaps holds a mirror up to ourselves nowadays. At the same locations where the East India Companies had their workshops, today many fashion brands operate in the same way.