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Arts of the South Pacific

The collection of art from the islands of the South Pacific Ocean—including New Zealand and Australia—demonstrates how the presence of the sea has shaped these peoples and their art.

Royal Court of Singaraja, Bali
Late 19th century
Gold, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds

6 x 10 1/4 x 8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, & the Americas

Arts of the South Pacific

In the 19th century, the royal courts of Bali enjoyed great prosperity and hosted numerous ceremonies and rituals. To assert their right to rule, and to glorify the gods, rulers commissioned artists to create objects of the highest quality. This elegant queen's crown from the court of Singaraja is fashioned in pure gold with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. Delicate flowers in gold leaf suspended on thin metal wires and springs shimmer with movement.

Bali is an Indonesian island small in size but rich in adornment. Its artistic tradition descends from older Javanese styles and the ornate Hindu style of India. As in most cultures of Indonesia, gold was believed to be empowered and able to cause both good and evil. It was also valued as a symbol of high status. This rare crown may have been commissioned as part of a larger set of royal adornment by King Gusti Agung Gede Agung in 1890 for an important wedding ceremony. Almost all of the artworks in the set are made of pure gold, evidence of great wealth.