Wanderings: The Provenance of Six Sri Lankan Objects


  • Doreen van den Boogaart
  • Alicia Schrikker




Six objects that are displayed together in the Rijksmuseum were researched as part of the Sri Lanka work-package of the Pilot Project Provenance Research on Objects of the Colonial Era. This group of elegantly decorated ceremonial weapons has a clear Sri Lankan origin as it shows recognizable Kandyan workmanship. The objects are linked to the violent plundering of the town and palace of the kingdom of Kandy by the Dutch in 1765 and are said to have been looted and added to the collection of the Dutch Stadholders shortly afterwards. This has made the objects controversial. While we could confirm that they were likely spoils of the Dutch Kandyan war, we also found that each of them had a different itinerary before it was placed in the collection. Unfortunately, the inventories of Stadholder Willem v’s collection remained silent about these objects: their exact moment of arrival in the collection has not been recorded. Our provenance research therefore included a reconstruction of the wanderings of each of these objects from the palace of Kandy to the Dutch Stadholder’s collection. In this contribution we discuss the research process, and highlight the problem of archival silences and histories of forgetting, and of mis- and re-interpretations that haunted these objects and troubled us along the way. Our eventual reconstruction of the wanderings of the objects was therefore based on intensive archival research and historical and art-historical contextualization, as well as etymological research and material analysis. For complex provenance cases like this, such an interdisciplinary approach is indispensable.


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Author Biographies

Doreen van den Boogaart

Doreen van den Boogaart studied history at Leiden University (MA, 2020) with a special focus on the lived experience of colonialism in Sri Lanka. She was involved as provenance researcher in the Pilot Project Provenance Research on Objects of the Colonial Era (PPROCE) which was presented in March 2022. Between 2018 and 2020 she assisted the Slavery exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Alicia Schrikker

Dr Alicia Schrikker is senior lecturer in colonial and global history at Leiden University. She currently leads two research projects funded by NWO on everyday colonialism in eighteenth-century Sri Lanka and on the long-term history of Dutch colonial culture in Indonesia. For the Pilot Project Provenance Research on Objects of the Colonial Era she was responsible for the Sri Lanka work package that investigated the provenance of six Sri Lankan objects from the Rijksmuseum in collaboration with colleagues from Sri Lanka Department of National Museums and the University of Kelaniya.




How to Cite

van den Boogaart, Doreen, and Alicia Schrikker. 2022. “Wanderings: The Provenance of Six Sri Lankan Objects”. The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 70 (4):302-17. https://doi.org/10.52476/trb.13468.