5554

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Pair of Dayak Aso-shaped Brass Ear Ornaments

Dayak People, Borneo, Malaysia
19th century

width: 3.8cm, height: 4cm, thickness: 2.1cm, combined weight: 124g

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Provenance

private collection, UK

This fine pair of man’s brass ear ornaments are from the Dayak people of Borneo.

They are heavy. As such they served as both ear pendants and weights, designed to help stretch the earlobes to exaggerated lengths.

The form of these ear pendants appears based on the aso, a mythical underworld hybrid dragon-dog female fertility figure. Richter (2000, p. 174) says that such ‘curvilinear vitality’ may be derived in part from dragons or other mythical creatures portrayed in Chinese trade ceramics that were imported into Borneo in vast quantities.

Each has been made separately, using the lost-wax casting method.

Ear ornaments of brass were signs of prestige and beauty. This pair would have been reserved for a powerful and prestigious wearer.

A single, related example is illustrated in Brinkgreve & Stuart-Fox (2013, p. 251). Other reclated examples are illustrated in Rodgers (1995, p. 280).

The pair is in excellent condition. There are no repairs or any other condition issues. The two have a fine, varying patina.

References

Hoek, C., et al, Ethnic Jewellery: From Africa, Asia and Pacific Islands, Pepin Press, 2004.

Richter, A., The Jewelry of Southeast Asia, Thames & Hudson, 2000.

Rodgers, S., Power and Gold: Jewelry from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, The Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva, 3rd ed. 1995.

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