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A large Indian Colonial ‘Vizagapatam’ pen-engraved bone inlaid ebony box

Masulipatnam or Vizagapatam, 2nd half 18th century

H. 10.8 x W. 47 x D. 34 cm


There are a few similar document boxes with fine inlay of small flowers connected by curling vines, many of them with the coats-of-arms of high-ranking VOC-officials engraved on a plaque in the centre of the lid. These boxes have always been thought to have been made in Vizagapatam. However, recently Jan Veenendaal convincingly argued that Masulipatam, about 300 kilometres south of Vizagapatam, and a much more important trade post for the Dutch than Vizagapatam, is much more likely to be the place where this type of box was ordered by the Dutch (Jan Veenendaal, De herkomst van documentenkisten met Nederlandse heraldische wapens van hoge VOC- functionarissen in Azië, Aziatische Kunst, jaargang 49, nr.1, maart 2019, pg. 53-60). The most famous amongst these boxes are those made on order by Jan Albert Sichterman (c. 1736), the Falck family (c. 1735), Jacob Mossel (c. 1740), Galenus Mersen (c. 1740) and Jan van Oordt (c.1740). The present box does not have a family crest in the central oval medallion. However, instead, inside a double ring two lions rampant crowned, on both sides of a large decorative flowering plant, arguably relating to the Dutch national coat-of-arms.

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