Jet Pijzel-Dommisse, 'Filigree in The Hague in the 17th Century', From Exhibition Catalogue, Silver Wonders From The East - Filigree of The Tsars, Hermitage Amsterdam, 27 April-17 September 2006, p.89
Filigree was sort after in the 17th century and references to it can be found in contemporary inventories, such as 12 filigree mounted coconut cups still existing in the Deutchen Ordens in Vienna brought to that city, most probably by Margaret-Therèse (1651-1673) of Spain and Portugal as part of her dowry when she married Leopold I in 1666; but these contemporary inventories are often unhelpful as to the place of origin, with the same filigree object being Chinese at one time and Indian at another. '..Chinese and Indian work can (sometimes) mean the technique of filigree and in the field of precious metal it was not always easy for the 17th century inventory compiler to see the difference between Chinese and Indian’1. Anyway it might have been that one place specialised in this intricate form of work, confusing the issue of origin by adapting what was produced to meet the stylistic preferences of a wide geographic area.
This was suggested by an 18th century commentator. A now much quoted description by the English Orientalist and Secretary of the British Admiralty, William Marsden F.R.S. (1734-1836) in his History of Sumatra in 1784 puts the importance of that large island into perspective. ‘There is no manufacture in that part of the world; and perhaps I might be justified in saying, in any part of the world, that has been more admired and celebrated than the fine gold and silver filigree of Sumatra.
Marsden also described Sumatra as the `… Emporium of eastern riches, wither the traders of the west resorted with their cargoes to exchange them for the precious merchandise of the Indian archipelago’. Inventories of the time made locally in South East Asia, are clearer about the origin of the filigree, than their European counterparts, here expressions such as ‘Manila Work’ or ‘Batavian work’ are sometimes found, but the most common description is ‘West Coast filigree’, or simply ‘West Coast Work’, referring to the West Coast of Sumatra where Padang was the most significant centre of production.
A box in the Rijksmuseum, which can be compared with the pair now offered in the way the filigree is made and the motifs used, is datable to at least the early part of the 18th century It may well have been made in Sumatra, as the owner Petronella van Hoorn was daughter and granddaughter of successive governor generals of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and lived on the island of Java, divided from Sumatra by only a relatively narrow stretch of water.
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