A splendid Dutch-colonial Sinhalese ebony two-door cabinet with silver mounts
Sri Lanka, Kandy, 2nd half 17th century, the mounts later
The cabinet with a central drawer with hidden compartment and the top drawer divided into four compartments. The surface carved all-over with scrolling plants issuing fleshy lotus palmettes, and in addition the exterior of the doors with a pair of kinnaris, the top with a seated deity encircled by birds, the back with a central lotus rosette flanked by quadrupeds and birds, and lastly the sides with
a serapendiya, bordered by narrow diaper kundi rakkan bands.
H. 29 x W. 32.5 x D. 23 cm
The richly decorated panels carved in differing degrees of relief reveal the skill of the Sinhalese craftsmen and the scrolls issuing a richness of flowers and fruits are indicative of the island’s vegetal abundance. Their stylization is result of a cross-fertilization of Dutch and Sinhalese decorative elements that appear on furniture, textiles and silver that later appeared across the Asian VOC territories. The mythical kinnaris, serapendiya and the kundi rakkan banding are typical forms of Sinhalese ornamentation, but not often seen on furniture for the Dutch. (Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Pantheon Books 1908).
For cabinets of similar form and decoration see: Furniture from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India during the Dutch period, Jan Veenendaal, 1985 pl.25, 29 and 58. Comparable Sinhalese furniture and objects with related carved decoration can be found in the Royal Collection Trust (21610, 21611), the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (1993.29) and the British Museum (1943.0712.4).
Private collection, United Kingdom Peter Lang, United Kingdom