Published: May 17, 2011
“Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection” is on view at the Yale University Art Gallery through August 14.
In ancient times, a civilization rose up in Indonesia that became a locus of trade, culture and religion, the most impressive traces of which are found on the island of Java. The exhibition features 200 objects †including jewelry, sculptures, coins, statues, containers and accessories †from the Yale University Art Gallery’s collection of more than 500 Javanese gold objects originally amassed in the 1980s and early 1990s by Toronto residents Valerie and Hunter Thompson, who donated their collection to the gallery in 2006 and 2008.
Ancient Javanese gold artifacts display exceptional skill and artistry and are a significant source of information on aspects of Javanese society, culture, religion, economy and technology. The objects in the exhibition are organized into six groupings, exploring the artist’s workshop, distribution, religious use, indications of prestige and luxury, aesthetics and gold used in a funerary context. The works range in date from the First Century BC to the Thirteenth Century and present diverse styles and cultural influences.
Highlights of the exhibition include a spectacular full-face burial mask, which probably would have been attached to a corpse; a repoussé kris (dagger) handle in the shape of a demon; a crown top or usnisha cover, which may have been worn by a person or affixed to a statue; and a tiger claw necklace, which would have been worn by a young man of the upper class in the hope that the ornament would confer on the wearer the strength and courage of the animal.
The show is the inaugural exhibition of the gallery’s department of Indo-Pacific art, created in spring 2009 and headed since January 2010 by Ruth Barnes, the first Thomas Jaffe curator of Indo-Pacific art. In 2012, the gallery will open a permanent-collection gallery for the department.
The Yale University Art Gallery is at 1111 Chapel Street. For information, 203-432-0600 or www.artgallery.yale.edu .
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