Collections, Exhibitions
April 1, 2011

Inaugural Indo-Pacific Art Exhibition Highlights Ancient Javanese Gold Artifacts

Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection
Yale University Art Gallery, March 25–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 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 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.

Old Javanese Gold 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.

Exhibition Support
Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection was made possible by Thomas Jaffe, B.A. 1971; James H. Slater, B.A. 1944; and an endowment created with a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Publication
Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery, a catalogue of the Thompson Collection written by John Miksic, Associate Professor of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, is being released by the Gallery in May 2011. This revised edition of a classic publication, published by the Gallery and distributed by Yale University Press, features all new photography, as well as new research and reports on recent archaeological discoveries.

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