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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.

 
 
 
JAVA
Indonesia
Pectoral
9th-10th century
Gold

11 ¼ x 11 ½ x 1 ¾ 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
 
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This hammered pectoral displays graceful foliage moving toward a central open lotus flower. The lotus, a symbol of purity, has roots in the ground, but the blossom is not soiled by the earth. It represents spiritual enlightenment.

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 royal courts and Buddhist and Hindu temples.

This large and rare pectoral may have adorned a wealthy ruler or a temple statue during important ceremonies or royal processions. 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.