A Late 19thC Ebony & Bone Inlaid Compartmentalised Quillwork Box


Origin: English/English Colonial
Period: Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1880
Height: 4 inches
Length: 10.5 inches
Depth: 7.5 inches

An attractive example of quillwork, the rectangular box with hinged lid set with four rows of porcupine quill within a bone inlaid ebony frame. The lid opens to a fitted interior, containing a tray divided into nine compartments, each compartment with an ebony lid inlaid with dots of animal bone. The tray lifts out to reveal a larger open compartment beneath. The sides of the box are set with two rows of quill, and the underside of the lid features a bone inlaid ebony panel, with a dotted border enclosing a central flower motif.

This example is in very good condition with all of the quills present, and only one or two small losses to the inlay, that in no way detract from the charm of the piece.Anglo-Indian quillwork boxes were principally made in Ceylon for export to the British Market.

Examples of these boxes often bear the words 'Galle' and 'Matara' which are towns on the southern coast of Ceylon where they were produced, other examples such as this, with the lidded tray, are less usual. Quillwork boxes often contained games counters, sewing accoutrements, or other miscellaneous trinkets. Quillwork boxes display various levels of workmanship, the simplest have sliding lids, open to plain interiors, and have a basic level of decoration; whereas the very finest often have intricately worked ivory panels, fine hardwood marquetry inlay, and very elaborate interiors.