Michael Backman Ltd - Home

Large, Fine Parcel-Gilt Pierced Silver Betel Box
Bhutan
19th century

length: 17cm, width: 11.8cm, height: 4.5cm, weight: 478g

This unusually large and fine example of a Bhutanese betel box comprises a hinged, domed base and domed cover of solid silver and parcel gilding (gold
plating). The cover has been chased and pierced with a dragon and a phoenix between a vase stacked with flaming which-fulfilling jewels, highlighted in gold.
This panel is surrounded by a chased border of Himalayan Buddhistic motifs, with parcel-gilt flowers in each corner.

The sides of the box are engraved with a key-fret pattern all around. The base is beautifully and finely engraved with a large, central
kirtimukha ('face of
glory') with a snake in its mouth and surrounded by cloud-like floral and vegetal scrolls.

Bhutanese men wore long robes and within the robes were large pouches or pockets in which a betel box such as this example might be concealed. The
sliding of the box in and out of these pouches is why they so typically have wear to the corners (as does this example), with the silver even being worn right
through.

A smaller example is illustrated in Myers & Bean (1994, p., 123).

Betel or
paan was chewed in Bhutan as it was (and in some cases, still is) in India and Southeast Asia. The actual nut comes from a certain palm tree which
was sliced, wrapped in a betel leaf along with powdered lime (usually obtained from crushed, burned seashells or coral) and chewed to give a mild narcotic
effect.

The box here is in excellent condition and is among the better examples of these that we have seen.

References:
Beer, R.,
The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, Serindia, 2004.
Myers, D., and S. Bean (eds),
From the Land of the Thunder Dragon: Textile Arts of Bhutan, Serindia, 1994.

Provenance: private collection, London.

Inventory no.: 3662 SOLD

Click here to see more Himalayan items.
.