Pillow endplate, Malaysia

Silver plaques ('bantal’) like this were sewn – through small holes around the edge – to the ends of bolsters or pillows, furnishing the beds of the wealthy in Malay courts.

Silversmithing was a traditional court craft in the Malay region; it expanded due to European trade and a rich tin-mining industry in the late 19th century. Malay silverware shows a variety of techniques (chasing, repoussé, niello and electroplating), and sultans summoned the best craftsmen to melt down coins or ingots to craft into exquisite utensils and ornaments. In accordance with the precepts of Islam, the designs on octagonal or rectangular silver bantal comprised floral and foliate motifs in arabesque patterns.

Collected by John R. F. Mills, a civil engineer in British Malaya, 1893–1913.

Accession number: 1992.6.71