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Asian art

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Covered box

circa 1900


Unknown Artist


This box and its various compartments held all the implements and ingredients required for the hospitable gesture of preparing and offering the betel nut concoction popular in many Southeast Asian countries. The box is skilfully inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which has been expertly shaped to fully exploit the glowing tones of opalescent pink and blue-green that can be elicited from the shell by a careful artisan. The scene on the cover, as well as the floral sprays around the sides, are Chinese in taste, and the piece could well have been made for use within the imperial court at Hue, the 19th century capital of the last royal dynasty in Vietnam, the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945).

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.304.


Other Title

Box for betel nut utensils

Place where the work was made

Viet Nam


Nguyen dynasty 1802 - 1945 → Viet Nam


circa 1900

Media category


Materials used

tortoiseshell, mother of pearl, lacquer, gesso, gold leaf, silver


11.0 cm; 24.5 cm diam.


Goldie Sternberg Southeast Asian Art Purchase Fund 1992


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made
Viet Nam

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


Matt Cox, The Connoisseur and the Philanthropist: 30 years of the Sternberg Collection, "Southeast Asian Art", pg. 25-29, Sydney, 31 Jan 2014, 24, 26 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 24 is a detail of this work

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, 304-305 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 305 is a detail of this work.

Ann Proctor, Bon Mau Co Ban - Four Colours., Analysis and discussion of selected works from AGNSW, 'Mother of Pearl Inlay-Vietnam', pg. 12-15, Sydney, Feb 2003, 12 (colour illus.), 13-15. section 4

Bon Mau Co Ban - Four Colours. Vietnamese Art Case Study, Sydney, Feb 2003, not paginated (colour illus.). section 5