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A rare Portuguese-Sinhalese openwork ivory and ebony casket with silver mounts

Sri Lanka, 1st half 17th century


H. 10 x W. 23.2 x D. 16 cm

The ebony box with ivory borders and silver hinges, lock plate and corner mounts, is entirely covered with open work ivory panels. This type of work was typically done during the Portuguese period on Sri Lanka.
The ivory decoration on the front, back and both sides consists of branches springing from vases and ending in flower bases from which women appear. The mythical climbing vines ending in the appearance of a woman are a very commen element in Kandyan design and known as nãri-latã-v!la “in all wise of perfect beauty, glorious
in grace.” Like most other mythical things the Nãri-latã-v!la is supposed to grow in the himalayas where has been known to shake the resolution of hermits. The central decoration of the woman on top of the elephant holding flowers in both hands may be associated with the goddess Sri (Laksmi) the consort of Vishnu, the feminine beauty personified and goddess of fortune.

A similar box in the collection of the National Museum of Colombo is illustrated in Portugal e Ceilão, Pedro Dias, Lisboa 2006, p.179.

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