A COLLECTION OF FOUR SRI LANKAN IVORY BIBLE BOXES
All in the form of a book, some with shaped backs, one pen-engraved.
The largest: W. 21.6 x D. 13 x H. 6.3 cm
The smallest: W. 20 x D. 11 x H. 5 cm
Private collection, London
In the Dutch East Indies, many Dutch and Indo-Dutch ladies on their way to church were accompanied by a slave carrying a precious little bible box. To show off their wealth, these boxes could be made of gold with inlays of gemstones, of silver, ivory, tortoiseshell or at least of expensive woods. In 1753 Governor-General Jacob Mossel esteemed it necessary
to regulate ostentatious displays of wealth. In his “Regulation against pomp and splendour,” he decreed, among other things, that only the wives or widows of the highest-ranking VOC officials were allowed te be seen publicly with gold bible boxes. Lower-ranking ladies had to do with ivory and tortoiseshell boxes.