A POSSIBLY UNIQUE INDONESIA DEEP-RELIEF CARVED EBONY DOCUMENT CHEST
Jakarta (Batavia), 17th century
Overall carved with scrolling flower-motif, with original brass mounts and key.
L. 60 x W. 40 x H. 20 cm
Private collection, Belgium
The high-relief carving seen in this ebony writing box is characteristic of the decoration found in ebony cabinets, chairs, settees, beds and boxes produced for the Dutch at the end of the 17th century on the Coromandel Coast, Sri Lanka, and in Batavia. This type of carved ebony furniture was known as “custwerk” (made on the Coromandel Coast). The carvers initially were Tamil craftsmen from South India, the Coromandel Coast, but as a result of many local wars and famines on the Coromandel Coast between 1630 and 1680, large numbers of Tamil craftsmen came, enslaved, to Batavia (or Sri Lanka) where this box was probably made.