Tiny bronze commands a giant price

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03 November 2006 (Sydney Morning Herald) – A feature on the Artsmart column about the National Gallery of Australia’s $4 million acquisition of The Bronze Weaver, a statuette dating from abut 600 AD. There is also an interesting mention on the provenance of the statuette.

Tiny bronze commands a giant price

The National Gallery of Australia made headlines last week – and astonished tribal art fans – by outlaying a seemingly unprecedented $4 million for an Indonesian artifact.

The gallery’s purchase is a small Indonesian bronze figure of a weaver suckling a baby. Dubbed The Bronze Weaver, it dates from circa 600 AD.

While San Francisco authority Thomas Murray is guarded about the provenance of The Bronze Weaver, an object he evidently knows well, it appears the bronze hasn’t spent all its life in the hands of Westerners and was owned and treasured by a family on Flores as late as the 1970s.

How such a precious item could have emerged soon afterwards in the collection of a European connoisseur – whence it was bought by the National Gallery of Australia – is something of a mystery.

It’s likely the Indonesian cultural authorities will be upset the figure didn’t end up in one of their state collections.

The Bronze Weaver was apparently examined and photographed by a Harvard associate professor of art and anthropology, Marie Jeanne Adams, who in a paper published in 1977 describes it as a “previously unreported figure of exceptional artistic and historical interest” that was revered by the family that owned it.

The paper includes a photo of The Bronze Weaver being cradled by a woman on Flores, probably its owner.

Related Books:
The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia (Cambridge World Archaeology) by C. Higham
The bronze-iron age of Indonesia (Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land-en Volkenkunde) by H. R. van Heekeren