Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection will be on view at the Yale University Art Gallery through August 14, 2011.
In the early centuries of the Common Era, 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. Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection features 200 objects—including jewelry, sculptures, coins, statues, containers, and accessories—from the Yale University Art Gallery’s collection of over 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 art- istry 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 b.c.e. to the 13th century c.e. 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.