Pearlescent Elegance: The Artistry of Ayutthaya’s Timeless Beauty

“Talum” is the term used to refer to a specific type of receptacle, bearing a resemblance to a tray, with the primary distinction being its inward curves. “Talum” is the term used to refer to a specific type of receptacle, bearing a resemblance to a tray, with the primary distinction being its inward curves.

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However, it encompasses beyond that. There exist two primary forms of Talum: round and rectangular both of which have endured in popularity to the present day. They serve various purposes acting as utility vessels in lieu of trays or dishes for offerings to the priests and monks. They are used to presenting flowers, incense, candles, fruits, medical herbs, as well as savory and sweet meals offered in reverence.

The materials typically used in crafting Talum are often locally sourced in Thailand. These materials include water palm leaves (known for its pliability, strength, and flexibility), water palm fiber, golden teak wood, and rattan. The craftsmen then employ a range of general hand tools such as saws, chisels, adzes, carving knives, and other specialized tools to create a vessel of varying sizes, complete with their bases and bodies. Additionally, a unique adhesive is prepared using the resin of the jackfruit tree, obtained by pounding and mixing it with canal water. This mixture is then left to ferment for approximately 3-4 days, resulting in a sticky and versatile gum that can be used as an alternative to glue. Nevertheless, those of higher status or nobility often commissioned Talum crafted from much rare and expensive materials such as silver or gold, and even adorned them with pearls. Moreover, these vessels would serve not only as offerings in the noble’s households, but also as utilitarian items for daily uses, such as tableware for meals.

The art of pearl adornment has a rich history dating back to the Ayutthaya period. Evidence of this can be found at the gates of the The Royal Urn in Ayutthaya Province of Thailand, now displayed in the Pearl Gallery of Bangkok National Museum. It is a widely held belief that any piece of art or ornamentation adorned with pearls signifies the purity and prosperity of its owner, an influence that has spread throughout Asia, including China, Korea, and Japan. However, each country has its distinct techniques for creating such pieces. In the case of Thailand, the traditional technique is known as “Samuk Tid”, a process which involves using a mixture of powdered toon leaves and red clay as an adhesive to attach pearls on to the ornaments. As Thais believed that pearls symbolize purity and luster, this practice has made pearls a preferred choice for adorning ceremonial vessels used in religious rituals.

Due to its historical uses, Talums are primarily associated with royal or religious ceremonies, often serving as trays for offering the royal courts or temples. In addition, their use in everyday households is also limited to those of higher ranks, making these intricately crafted artifacts less common and more elusive. Particularly, those adorned with pearls are considered rare and highly valuable collector’s items.

A wooden mother-of-pearl

Lot 127

A wooden mother-of-pearl inlaid tray decorated with continuous of floral vine scrolls (1 pc.)
Style: Thai, Rattanakosin

Dimensions:  W 33 cm H 13 cm
Circa: 19th Century
Estimated Price: 40,000 - 50,000 THB
Starting Price: 16,000 THB


Lot 128

A wooden mother-of-pearl inlaid offering tray decorated with trailing flowers   (1 pc.)
Style: Thai, Rattanakosin

Dimensions: W 34 cm H 19 cm
Circa: 19th Century
Estimated Price: 30,000 - 40,000 THB
Starting Price: 18,000 THB