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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.

9th-10th century
Gold, amethyst, and rock crystal

9 1/4 x 9 x 3 1/4 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

This elaborate, mountain-shaped crown may have adorned a wealthy ruler or statues in Buddhist or Hindu temples during important ceremonies. The face of a protective Kala demon emerges from the floral scrolling, and the intricate styling is further enhanced by semiprecious stones.

The period between the 9th and 10th centuries was a golden age for Java, one of the largest islands of Indonesia and a center of the Asian trade route. Prosperity led to a flourishing of the arts, and many objects were fashioned for the courts and temples. Sophisticated skill was required to fashion this work of art. The gold sheeting would have been pounded over a model carved in soft stone. Then designs and details were deepened and cut into the gold. A bronze plaque in the same shape was attached to the back as reinforcement, and the hollow space between the two filled with clay. The gold was then folded over the bronze in the back.