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Bronze 4-armed male figure standing under a tree


Height: 6.350 inches

Revd William Charles Raffles Flint (1859)

Asia OA 1859,12-28.93

Enlightenment: Religion

    Bronze 4-armed male figure standing under a tree

    From Java, Indonesia, early 19th century AD

    Collected by Sir Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) during his posting as British Lieutenant-Governor of Java from 1811-16, this sculpture is part of the first great collection of Indonesian cultural objects to enter Britain. Most of the bronze sculptures in this large collection date to the period when Indian religions were dominant in Java (around the sixth to thirteenth centuries AD). However, this one, along with a handful of others, is in a style which cannot be linked with the earlier examples. It has, therefore been suggested that these strange sculptures may have been made in Java when Raffles was there, and in response to his known collecting activity. They are, in effect, early nineteenth-century fakes.

    Raffles' collection was formed as part of his efforts to understand Javanese culture. Along with researching in Java, it helped him to write an important history of Java after his return to London. Here he was knighted and elected to the Royal Society and helped to found London Zoo before his early death in 1826. Manuscripts which once belonged to Raffles (Malay and Indonesian) are today in the Royal Asiatic Society (founded 1823), while also there, in the British Museum and in the British Library, are collections of drawings of the buildings of Java, along with scenes of everyday life. These were all prepared at Raffles' instigation during his period of office and are part of his schema for government, in which he was concerned to record and understand the civilisations of Java - both ancient and contemporary.

    N. Barley (ed.), The golden sword: Stamford Raf (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

    Sir T.S. Raffles, The History of Java (London, 1817, 1830 and later editions)

    W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)


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