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Unusual Miniature Woven Brass Wire Jewellery Basket (Vel-pettiya)
Kandy, Sri Lanka
18th-19th century

height: 7cm, length: 10cm, weight: 190g

This miniature basket is based on a larger prototype known as a vel-pettiya. Known examples of vel-pettiya baskets are woven from cane with silver or brass
mounts. This example is unusual - indeed, is the only example of which we are aware, published or otherwise - of a Sri Lankan
vel-pettiya that is of such a
small size and made entirely from woven brass wire. The mounts are of brass, and the entire basket has been silvered, although the silvering has worn here
and there.

The lid is hinged, there are 18th century-style hoop handles on both sides and on the top of the cover. There is a long key plate strap over the front together
with lugs that allow a small padlock to be used; and there are two hinge straps at the back.

Vel-pettiya baskets were produced in the Kingdom of Kandy in central Sri Lanka. They were made for members of the Kandyan aristocracy and were used to
store jewellery and keepsakes. Similar baskets but with less elaborate mounts were produced in Indonesia. It is possible that colonial Portuguese and Dutch
administrators introduced this form to Indonesia from the Kandyan Kingdom in the eighteenth century.

The condition of this basket is fine given its age. Minor faults include some of the woven wires maybe are missing, and the silver plating is worn. But this can
be expected given the age and the intricacy of construction. Overall, it is an unusual and rare piece.

See Coomaraswamy (1956, plate XLIIIA) for examples of full-sized
vel-pettiya baskets, and also here for an example that we have in stock.

References: Coomaraswamy, A.K., Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Pantheon Books, 1956 reprint of the 1908 edition.

Provenance:  UK art market

Inventory no.: 3305 SOLD

Click here to see more colonial Dutch & Spanish items.

here to see more Sri Lankan items.
An example of a full-sized vel-pettiya in the collection of the National Museum of Kandy, Sri Lanka. Photographed in 2011.