c1880 Burmese Carved Coco de Mer on Chinte & Elephants


An extremely fine antique Burmese profusely carved Coco de Mer (Lodoicea Maldivica), standing on the backs of Chinte and Elephants.

The Coco de Mer is of typical form, uncannily resembling the female lower abdomen and pubis. The body is carved with rows of soldiers bearing swords within stylised arches. The top, which comes off as a lid, is carved in the form of 2 Peacocks, the tail feathers forming the decoration of the lid. The peacock was considered an auspicious bird and was one of the royal emblems. The lid keeps in place thanks to 4 metal tongues that keep it in position. The Coco de Mer rests upon the backs of 2 elephants and 2 mythical Chintze guardian lions. A very similar example sold at Christies auction, London, on 5th September 2013 for £13750.

The Latin name is Lodoicea maldivica. The Lodoicea is derived from Lodoicus, the latinised version of Louis, in honour of the French King Louis XV reigning in 1768, when the explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne discovered the source of the nut. Before this it was believed they grew on a sea-dwelling mythical tree. European nobles in the sixteenth century would often have the shells of these nuts polished and decorated as collectibles for their private galleries. The coco de mer tree is now critically endangered.

Formerly known as a Maldives coconut, as in centuries past they would fall from the trees to be carried eastwards by the prevailing sea currents. Consequently, many washed up on the shores of the Maldives, where locals gathered them for their supposed medicinal properties. It was believed that it had major healing powers and drinking from a bowl made of the shell was an antidote to all poisonous substances.

Erotic in appearance and often associated with fertility, the Coco de Mer is widely considered a botanical curiosity. The largest seed in the world, due to the biological phenomenon Island Gigantism, where the size of organisms isolated on islands increases dramatically in relation to mainland relatives.

Size: 29 x 23.5 x 40 cm (11 ½ x 9 ¼ x 15 ¾ inches)
Weight: 1468g