AN INDONESIAN MOTHER-OF-PEARL INLAID EBONY SIRIH BOX WITH SILVER MOUNTS
Jakarta (Batavia), 1720-1730, the silver marked for Batavia, maker's mark HS or SH
The box overall inlaid with floral pattern in mother-of-pearl, with silver mounts and feet, the silver lockplate finely engraved, in the form of a two-headed eagle under a crown.
H. 10 x W. 26 x D. 17.5 cm
VOC officials who had to deal with Asian rulers had to adapt to Asian ways, including the chewing of sirih leaves, containing part of a pinang/careca nut, chalk and sometimes a bit of tobacco. Unlike tobacco smoking which exudes a troublesome smell to bystanders, pinang refreshes the mouth leading to a pleasant odour and therefore is considered good manners when one visits a great lord. Before settling down to business sirih had to be offered in the most exquisite boxes, made of gold, silver, inlaid with precious stones, ivory, tortoiseshell, or, as the present one, inlaid with mother of pearl. The costliness of ones sirih box displayed ones fortunes. It is not known who the silversmith HS or SH, active between circa 1714 and circa 1743, is but he did leave an impressive oeuvre of very high standard. The Gemeentemuseum The Hague has seven commemorative salvers, a walking stick and a cuspidor with his marks in its collection. For another and so far the latest dated salver by HS or SH, commemorating Bartha Helena van Suchtelen, born in Jakarta (Batavia) in 1710 and deceased there in 1743, see Uit Verre Streken, March 2013, no. 4.