Asian Antiques by Silk Road

Khmer Silver Singha Betelnut Box

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Southeast Asian: Metalwork: Pre 1920: Item # 888007

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A two-part silver box in the traditional Khmer motif of a singha, a mythical lion, is covered with swirling lines simulating fur, and has a fat pouf of a tail swung up over its broad back. Though it has the open jaw and flattened ears of a protector, its aura is more friendly than fierce. With a weight of 538 grams, this box is relatively large compared with other such boxes in the genre of handmade Khmer silver pieces found in the shapes of myriad birds and animals. (See the article “Khmer Silver in Animal Shapes” by K. I. Matus in “Arts of Asia,” July/August 1988, p. 81, for an in-depth discussion. For a silver singha similar to this one, see figure 27 on p. 90 of the same article.) The boxes were used to hold the leaves and other ingredients necessary to assemble a quid of betel, a mild stimulant used for centuries throughout Southeast Asia. While such silver pieces are difficult to date, this one, judging by design and detail, was made in the early 20th century. Every surface, even the bottoms of the feet, is detailed, with exceptional attention to the head, where more than a dozen patterns of lines combine with crisp shapes to form the singha’s lively expression. Because such silver boxes were highly valued by their owners, they were carefully handled and typically remain in good condition. This one is in quite good condition, with no dents. Dimensions: height 6 ½” (17 cm), length 8” (20 cm), width 4 ¾” (12 cm). SEE MORE ITEMS IN OUR COLLECTION AT WWW.SILKROAD1.COM