249 • An Indo-Dutch Carved Ostrich Egg

Sri Lanka, dated 1771
Size: 14.5cm high

The amorous scene, the trumpeting winged cherubs above the initials ‘CBI’ and ‘IDB’, and the billing doves on a double heart with linked hands, declare this egg to be the commemoration of a happy betrothal. The betrothal ring is held aloft, strung on a garland by the two trumpeting cherubs, and then presented in a box by Cupid to the delighted lady. The passion between them is evident as his hand is clearly trying to get under her skirt. In the final scene she is holding a timepiece and handing him her fan (?), perhaps announcing that she is pregnant. It’s a very happy egg.

Dutch colonial rule in Sri Lanka lasted from 1640 until 1796, and the architectural details are typical of the gabled brick houses of the Low Countries. Moreover, the ‘D’ in ‘IDB’ is smaller, suggesting that it indicates ‘der’ or ‘de’. There are similar eggs in the the Kunstkammer of the Wurttembergisches Landesmuseum in Stuttgart, possibly by the same hand.

Provenance: Christopher Gibbs, London  |  Sven Gahlin, acquired 1966