Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Cambodian zoomorphic betel nut boxes

"Now the Peke, although people may say what they please, Is no British Dog, but a Heathen Chinese."

From 'The Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles' by TS Eliot

This is what immediately sprung to mind on seeing this box and it isn't far wrong - not a heathen Chinese but a rather fine piece of silversmithing by Cambodian Khmer.   It is fashioned from sheets of solid beaten silver - in this case unusually large at a foot long - into a storage box for betel nut or the accoutrement needed in its chewing / preparation.   Five will find their way onto the List, alongside this one, a deer, a large turtle, a bird and a smaller version of the one illustrated here.   They all date from between 1920 and 1950, the height of their popularity being between the wars.

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