Cast Bronze or Brass Ritual Bell
Sarawak (Malaysia) or Brunei
19th-early 20th century
height: 35.5cm, diameter: 16cm
This unusual item was collected in Sarawak in the 1960s and is a heavy, well-cast bell with a fierce naga-type head, and bands of lotus petals in high relief on the body of the bell. A clapper is inside.
The styling is similar to bronzes produced on Java during the late Majapahit period of the 14th and 15th centuries, and possibly shows knowledge of these bronzes , but the scale and type of casting is similar to all the other casting of large ceremonial kettles, canons (
lantaka) and gongs produced in Sarawak, Brunei and elsewhere on Brunei during the 19th and 20th centuries. These large-scale bronze items were produced by indigenous casters and were used by local people as stores of wealth, for display purposes and as a means of exchange.
The bell here is in excellent condition.
Chin, L., Cultural Heritage of Sarawak, Sarawak Museum, 1980.
Lunsingh Scheurleer, P., & M.J. Klokke,
Ancient Indonesian Bronzes: A Catalogue of the Exhibition in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam with a General Introduction, E.J. Brill, 1988.
Acquired in the UK, from the estate collection of Dr George Yuille Caldwell (1924-2016). Dr Caldwell, an English-born physician moved to Singapore in the 1950s, from where he built up a collection of mostly Borneo-related textiles and other ethnographica.
Inventory no.: 3956