The Dance of Beauty and Divinity in Ancient Gold Jewellery

The Dance of Beauty and Divinity in Ancient Gold Jewellery

The Shiva Linga Mudra is a powerful hand gesture that represents both the God and Goddess, a symbol of masculine and feminine, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi, respectively. The mudra symbolises the integration of the energies of Shiva and Shakti.

V irtuoso goldsmiths flourished under the patronage of the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Classical Period Java (7th to the 15th centuries). This was an age in which royalty and gold were intertwined; exquisite, intricately designed pieces of jewellery – particularly rings – were a potent expression of beauty, nobility, and divinity.

A selection of ancient rings of Southeast Asia from a superb collection formed over the last three decades by a highly distinguished Asian private collector. Read more in the catalogue overview .

These characteristics are exemplified in the stunning ancient gold Javanese rings which form part of ‘Southeast Asian Gold Jewellery and Ornaments from an Asian Private Collection’. Some are set with gemstones, amethyst or glass; others are inscribed on the bezel with auspicious Hindu motifs.

Modelled here on the hands of a dancer, the sublime craftsmanship of the jewellery finds an echo in the elegant, intricate hand movements typical of Indonesian dance traditions. As with Java’s ancient goldware, these dances have their roots in the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, embodying the refined aesthetic culture of the royal courts.


The splendour and symbolism of Southeast Asian culture was a captivating subject for Western painters visiting Indonesia in the mid-20th century. Graceful Balinese dancers, adorned with decoration were one of the quintessential subjects of the Belgian painter Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, whose muse (and later wife) was the legong dancer Ni Pollok.

Left: The Hamsasye Mudra in dance is used to convey an auspicious occasion or festival, the tying of thread, ascertaining imparted instructions, or hair standing up on end. Right: Detail of Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, Picking Flowers .
The mudra Kapittha refers to the goddess Lakshmi or Saraswati. The pose can also express milking cows, holding symbols or holding a flower.

While travelling in Java and Bali, the Italian painter Romualdo Frederico Locatelli created the masterwork Gambuh Dancer, 1939. The gambuh is an ancient form of Balinese dance-drama, dating to the late Majapahit empire, that brings together elements of performance, music and mythology. Here, Locatelli masterfully captures the angular pose of the performer in a palette that echoes the earthy pigments used in Javanese decorative art.

Through paintings like Locatelli’s one can picture the archaic gambah being performed for Javanese nobility adorned in the magnificent gold jewellery on offer in this distinguished private collection. They are treasures that form a tangible bond with the culture and craftsmanship of ancient Southeast Asian civilisations.

Chinese Works of Art

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