SOUTH INDIAN EBONY BOX
This ebony box has low relief carving that runs around the side and the top lid. Each carved surface is framed by a border that consists of a pattern containing repeating small lozenge shapes. The intricate carving design is consistent on all four sides and the lid: they are predominantly made up of vine scrolls encircling various types of flowers. The front-facing, circular flowers with two rows of petals is common in chairs produced in the Coromandel Coast in 1650-1680[i], and the cross-hatching centred flowers find their parallel in Sri Lankan decorative vocabulary.[ii] To either side of the box is a metal handle, and to the front is a heart-shaped lock. The raised, round brass decorations on the lid and around the lock are for securing the hinges and lock on the inside of the box.
Raised carving design is a characteristic of ebony furniture made on the Coromandel Coast, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Ebony was obtained from the ebony tree (Diospyros ebenum), found in places like Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Buru. This dark tropical hardwood was extremely popular in the seventeenth century, as witness the various kinds of furniture made from them. The earliest pieces are sometimes virtually exact copies of furniture made in Holland, a result of the Dutch VOC settlements in southern India. Furniture and craftsmen travelled frequently between the Coromandel Coast, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, resulting in a shared decorative repertoire for furniture.
[i] for example, see pp.23-4 Veenendaal, Jan. Furniture from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India during the Dutch Period / Jan Veenendaal. Delft: Delft : Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara, 1985., n.d.
[ii] For example, see an ivory box, p.43, Veenendaal, Jan. Asian Art and Dutch Taste. 1st ed. Waanders Uitgevers, 2014.