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A fine and large Indonesian silver filigree casket

 

West Sumatra, Padang, late 17th/early 18th century

W. 19.5 x D. 12.2 x H. 13 cm

Weight 1221 grams

During the late 17th and most of the 18th century, Amsterdam was the place to be for Russian Tsars, a host of French, German, and Danish princes or their agents, and for rich collectors looking to fill their European ‘Kunstkammer’ with all kinds of Eastern curiosities, including silver filigree items. Because these curiosities were to be found in Amsterdam this points to an origin somewhere within the Dutch sphere of influence in the East. Centres of filigree production in the East include India, Karimnagar and Goa, China, Canton, the Philippines, Manila, and West Sumatra, Padang and Kota Gadang.

The western coast of Sumatra had enjoyed the protection of the VOC since 1663. In return, the VOC demanded a monopoly on trade from the area and was granted land near Padang that was known to be gold-bearing. Although mining proved uneconomic and was eventually abandoned by the VOC, large numbers of mainly Malay gold- and silversmiths were active in the area making traditional jewellery and silverware, and more particularly silver filigree objects. The VOC did enforce its trade monopoly on gold, but not on finished filigree products, so VOC officials and independent traders were able to buy curiosities and finished filigree objects in the area for European collectors. The VOC itself regularly used gold and silver filigree items from West Sumatra as gifts for Asian rulers.

 

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