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paar filigrain kandelaren.jpg

A rare pair of silver filigree candle sticks


West Sumatra, late 18th or early 19th century

H. 24.5 cm

Weight 242 grams

Filigree work, filigrain in Dutch, both derived from the French word ‘filigrane’, is an age-old, wide-spread technique that enables gold- and silversmiths to produce attractive works of art out of very little precious metals. The technique involves pulling silver or gold through a small hole in a harder metal. The result is a long, fine thread that can be decorated, for example, by twisting, flattening or by making indentations. Loops are then made of the thread and soldered together at the point of contact to produce various patterns. These fine looped threads are then soldered inside empty spaces left by stouter wire.
Although there are regional variations and changes over time, filigree work is impossible to mark, so it is often hard to determine the provenance and the exact age of filigree objects. In Asia there are several filigree production- centres. In India, Goa was probably the first centre producing, initially
mainly gold boxes, for export to Portugal, starting in the late 16th century. Karimnagar, in the 18th century, produced fine silver filigree objects, such as, complete toilet sets, boxes, rosewater sprinklers, buttons and jewellery for the English taste. China, Canton, in the 18th and 19th century, made various object such as lidded baskets (Uit Verre Streken, December 2013, no. 34), and boxes of the finest threads and sometimes with colourful enamel inlays, for export and for foreigners in China. West-Sumatra, Padang, in the 18th and well into the 20th century was famous for its gold and silver filigree jewellery and exotic objects d’art, including Sumatra rhino horn, ivory, lacquerware, coconut and pedro de porco (see Uit Verre Streken, June 2019, no. 34) fitted in filigree work, made by Malay and Chinese silversmiths. In the late 19th and 20th century Dutch tourists bought filigree miniature houses (see Uit Verre Streken November 2015, no. 31), jewellery, small boxes, dishes, tazza’s and candle sticks. Already in the 18th century there were many Dutch collectors of filigree work, in Batavia (Jakarta) and in Holland, and Amsterdam was the most important centre for the Russian Tsars, German and Austrian princes, to find and buy exotic filigree objects.

The lobed edges of the candlesticks and those on filigree fitted rhino horn, coconut beaker, lacquer cup and plate from West-Sumatra, illustrated in Asian Art and the Dutch Taste, Jan Veenendaal, Waanders Uitgevers, 2014, pg. 122 – 133, are very similar.


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