When the idea for a special TAASA Review issue devoted to royal collections of Asia was suggested by Gael Newton and Robyn Maxwell the concept was immediately appealing. From the earliest conversations regarding the content of this issue we realized that it was vast with possibilities and enough ideas for several volumes presented themselves. We are pleased that the final result brings to readers a selection including less well-known and sometimes surprising collections, most of which are accessible to the public.
Throughout Asia some of the finest arts have been produced under the patronage of powerful rulers who sought to mark and assert their presence through the construction of palatial and secular architecture and the commissioning of lavish ceremonial and courtly goods. Imperial dynasties established across expansive mainland and insular regions have resulted in a rich diversity of royal treasures. Although many are now included in international collections, private and public, others remain in situ. While royal holdings in India and Japan are explored in this issue, Southeast Asia is a particular focus, with most articles relating to courts in Thailand, Burma, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Piyanan Petcharaburanin from the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in Bangkok gives an introduction to the Museum from its inception to its current role as a state of the art institution inspired by the passion of Queen Sirikit. In November 2013 the Museum hosted an exceptional conference, Weaving royal traditions through time, which included diverse sessions spanning textiles for the Thai court and conservation at the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan to contemporary fashion designed for the royal families of Malaysia and Brunei.
Following a fortuitously timed visit to Japan in 2012, Robyn Maxwell writes about the precious 8th century objects associated with the reign of Emperor Shomu and stored at the Shoso-in repository of Todai-ji temple in Nara. A rotating selection of these works of art is available for viewing for just a few days each year.
Charlotte Galloway looks at treasures from the courts of Burma that have survived a tumultuous history, some of which are now displayed at the National Museum in Yangon. From descriptions of the gilded opulence of the 16th century to the deposal of the last Burmese king Thibaw in 1885 and the ensuing years of colonization and independence, Charlotte gives insight into the meaning and purpose of these exceptional works of art.
Focusing on the royal antiquities of Vietnam’s Nguyen dynasty, Kerry Nguyen-Long has written a fascinating history of the dynasty’s regalia. Along with a detailed account of some of the most prized seals, crowns and jade objects, Kerry provides an in-depth account of their production in dedicated handicraft units.
Indonesia receives attention from a number of perspectives this issue. Inspired by recent travels, Joanna Barrkman describes a unique display of ceramics as well as wayang kulit puppets in royal collections in Cirebon, alongside investigation into the development of Cirebon batik motifs. Further emphasis on Indonesian textiles is provided by Siobhan Campbell who discusses a forthcoming exhibition of cloths from the collection of John Yu and his late partner George Soutter.
Gael Newton, whose exhibition Garden of the East: photography in Indonesia 1850s–1940s at the National Gallery of Australia coincides with this edition of the TAASA Review, discusses the way in which interest in photography, in particular portrait photography of royalty, spread rapidly from Europe to the courts of Thailand and Indonesia from the mid 19th century. Photography is also explored in Jim Masselos’ review of Pramod Kumar’s sumptuous bookPosing for Posterity: Royal Indian Portraits, an investigation into photographs belonging to the royal families f India.
As guest editors we are also happy to have been able to contribute content on collections close to our hearts. Reflecting on time spent working in Bali and Lombok, Niki gives a personal take on the history and holdings of Puri Karangasem where she worked as a curator for a year, while Melanie considers a group of objects associated with royal dynasties in various parts of Asia which are now held by the National Gallery of Australia.
3 Editorial: ROYAL COLLECTIONS IN ASIA
Melanie Eastburn & Niki van den Heuvel, Guest Editors
4 PURI AGUNG: PRESERVING KARANGASEM’S ROYAL PALACE IN BALI
Niki van den Heuvel
7 THE ROYAL ANTIQUITIES COLLECTION OF THE NGUYEN DYNASTY, VIETNAM
10 THE JEWELLED WORLD OF BURMESE KINGS
12 THE ROYAL COLLECTIONS IN CIREBON, INDONESIA: A LIVING TRADITION
14 THE QUEEN SIRIKIT MUSEUM OF TEXTILES, BANGKOK
Piyanan (Poom) Petcharaburanin
16 THE SHOSO-IN TREASURY – A ROYAL COLLECTION BOTH EXTRAORDINARY AND EVERYDAY
18 THE HOFFOTO GRAAF: PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER TO ROYALTY IN ASIA
22 MODEST CONNOISSEUR: INDONESIAN TEXTILES IN THE LIVES OF JOHN YU & GEORGE SOUTTER
26 ROYAL ART IN THE COLLECTION OF THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA
28 BOOK REVIEW: PHOTOGRAPHING INDIA’S PRINCES
30 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES
30 TAASA Members’ Diary: MARCH - MAY 2014
31 WHAT’S ON: MARCH - MAY 2014
Compiled by Tina Burge