Blog

Exhibition in Paris on Felix Feneon, Early Tribal Art Collector

The Musee du Quai Branly, the world’s best museum decorated to non-western-tribal arts, currently has a fascinating exhibition devoted to the Parisian art collector Felix Feneon (1861-1944). Feneon amassed a large collection of Impressionist paintings but then turned his attention to traditional African art from around 1923.  It was at a time when ‘tribal’ art  … Read more

The Snake Charmers of Marrakech

Marrakech in Morocco has long been at the confluence of trade between the Mediterranean and the Sahara. The city is vibrant and dynamic. It reeks of trade. Its famous, massive square, the Jemaa El-Fna, is the heart of the medina and may have been in its current, approximate form for as long as a thousand  … Read more

Teapots that aren’t! Water Vessels from Southeast Asia.

There is the temptation to describe any vessel with a spout and a handle as a teapot or a kettle. But in Southeast Asia rarely are ‘teapots’ or ‘kettles’ any such thing, despite auction houses, collectors and even some museums persisting with such categorisation. In Thailand, most items made from silver which appear to be  … Read more

Dayak Ear Weights & Ornaments of Borneo

Among the Kenyah and other Dayak peoples of Borneo, ear ornaments of cast solid brass were signs of prestige and power. (Borneo is an island in Southeast Asia shared between the countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The Dayak tended to live across all three borders. The Malaysian states in Borneo are Sarawak and Sabah,  … Read more

Himalayan Art in Russia’s State Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, has a huge collection of Renaissance paintings and ancient Greek terracotta but what is less well known is that it has a small but good collection of Himalayan art – especially drawn from Mongolia. These items are rarely published and seen outside Russia. The over-representation of Mongolian pieces  … Read more

Executing the Malay way – the Kris Panjang

Most people are familiar with the Malay and Indonesian kris sword with its double-edged, way blade. But occasionally kris-like swords are encountered with thin, unusually long blades that are doubled edged but which have no waves. This type typically is known as a kris panjang. They tend to come from either the Malay Peninsula or  … Read more

The Spectacular Mansions of the Chettiars in Chettinad, South India

The Nattukottai Chettiars or Chettis is mercantile and banking group in South India, most particularly in the Sivaganga district and Pudukottai Districts of Chola Nadu in Tamil Nadu – an area that has become known as the Chettinad. The group came to dominate local trade financing around Southeast Asia in the 19th and early 20th  … Read more

Visiting the Faberge Museum, St Petersburg

Private collectors and private philanthropy usually are what have made great museums great. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum would not be as celebrated as they if not for the efforts of several important collectors who amassed collections which then came into the possession of these museums. Museum curators and civil servants  … Read more

Tekat Embroidered Textiles from Malaysia

Tekat is the Malay name given to the technique of decorating textile panels (usually velvet) with thickly applied gold thread decoration. When the thread is applied by couching, the technique is  known as tekat timbul or tekat suji. Often the decoration is in the form of arabeques or flowers (bunga). Sections of the decoration can be  … Read more

Surprising Thai Niello Silverware in Russia’s State Hermitage Museum

St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace have enormous holdings of art – much of it little known outside Russia. A recent trip to St Petersburg yielded this extraordinary centrepiece and two candelabra from Siam (Thailand). The set dates to the late 19th century and is executed in gilded silver niello. The set  … Read more

Why are many Miniature Indian Bronzes so Worn?

Why are so many small Indian bronze images of Hindu deities so worn, often to the point that their facial and other features no longer are recognisable? Most small bronzes are not from temples but from households – from the family altar. And for many practising Hindus, the bronzes are not static, lifeless representations of  … Read more

School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) & the Alphawood Foundation

We had two handling sessions in the gallery this week and a lecture on Southeast silver at the School of Oriental & African Studies in conjunction with SOAS’ Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art. Included were students from Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Poland and the UK. (SOAS is a part of University College London – UCL.)  … Read more

Metalwork of ‘Tribal’ Africa

We have a new category in our catalogue – Metalwork of Tribal Africa. We have decided to make this a separate category so we can better highlight this discrete and interesting collecting area. Africa is rich in natural copper and other metals. This is the case especially in West Africa. Consequently, there is a long,  … Read more

Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum’s Superb Makeover

Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) is fast becoming one of the world’s leading Asia specialist museums. A recent visit revealed the extensions and rehangs in the South Asia, Southeast Asia, Asia Trade and Asian Cross-Cultural Christian sections of the gallery. It really is a superb museum now. The flow through the galleries now is more  … Read more

Ramadan, Southeast Asia & Food

It’s Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. The sentiments behind the month are noble – not eating or drinking and abstaining from other activities such as smoking during daylight hours is intended to promote empathy with the poor among the faithful. It is also a time of socialising.  In Malaysia and Indonesia (Indonesia has the world’s  … Read more

Selling to Museums – Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum

We are fortunate to often sell to museums around the world. Protecting the world’s material culture as the world slides down a funnel of Internet-driven cultural sameness, by researching it, giving it the correct attributions, and acquiring it for important public and private collections, is a task we take seriously. The role of curating and  … Read more

The Escalating Problem of Faking

The world’s supply of antiques is fixed. The number of items made in the 18th century for example is a finite quantity (or declining when one considers that each year some will be lost to fire and so on). But each year, more and more fakes are made. This means that each year, the proportion  … Read more

It’s Easter! It’s Passover! Jesus in Islam, Judaism & Hinduism

It’s Easter, the holiest festival for the world’s largest religion. But Jesus is a figure not just for Christians. Of course for the Jews, Jesus is a renegade figure, the leader of a breakaway sect. And as for Jesus himself, he always thought of himself as a Jew. The Last Supper was a simple and  … Read more

Morocco Jewellery & Islamic World Evening

We hosted the British-Moroccan Society in the gallery last evening. Members, who do a fantastic job at promoting ties between the UK and Morocco, were treated to a superb presentation by Sarah Corbett on regional variations in the traditional jewellery worn by Moroccan women, and a presentation by Michael Backman on Haj-driven, cross-cultural exchange across  … Read more

Russian & Ottoman Art at Buckingham Palace

‘Russia: Art, Royalty and the Romanovs’, an exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace due to end at the end of April, draws on fabulous items in the Queen’s collection of items associated with Russia’s Imperial Romanov Dynasty. Included are several spectacular weapons from the Ottoman-influenced Caucasus. There is a coral-inlaid qama dagger and  … Read more

Christian influence on Mughal Art – A Presentation at Asia House

Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi, a SOAS research associate and specialist on the art and architecture of Mughal South Asia, gave a very interesting presentation at Asia House in London earlier this week. She spoke on the influence of Christian art on depictions of power in Mughal miniature painting art in the Court of the Mughal emperor  … Read more

Thai Silver & Nielloware in London

We were very fortunate last night to host in the gallery a superb presentation by Paul Bromberg, author of Thai Silver and Nielloware, newly published by River Books. He spoke about antique Thai silver, who made it, for whom, and the techniques that were used. Attendees included Narisa Chakrabongse, publisher and founder of River Books,  … Read more

India’s Tipu Sultan, his Library & the Destruction of his Palace

This evening, we attended a fascinating lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society by Dr Ursula Sims-Williams from the British Library about Tipu Sultan’s library. Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore in south India, was killed at the siege of his palace at Seringapatam by British forces in 1799. The ruler’s treasury was looted as was  … Read more

Zanzibar’s Controversial Princess Salme & her Museum

Princess Salme, a daughter of Sultan Sayyid Said, the Zanzibar-based ruler of Oman and Zanzibar in the mid-19th century, caused a sensation by running off with a German man who was based in Zanzibar and marrying him later and living in Germany. The princess, a Muslim girl who had until that point almost never met a  … Read more

Central Javanese Manuscripts at the British Library

Last night we attended a splendid presentation by Annabel Gallop, the British Library’s Lead Curator for Southeast Asia, on the Library’s magnificent collection of illuminated central Javanese manuscripts, many of which date to at least the 18th century. The presentation marks the end of the Library’s digitalisation (and restoration) of the manuscripts so that their  … Read more

International Women’s Day & the Minangkabau People

It’s International Women’s Day today (March 8) so it seems timely to consider the 8 million-strong Minangkabau people of Southeast Asia as an interesting anecdote. Why? Because they are a rare example of a matrilineal society. They are a Muslim group concentrated in West Sumatra, Indonesia – but also there are large numbers around Malaysia’s  … Read more

Ethiopia’s Disputed Maqdala Treasures at the V&A

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum currently has on display in its Silver Galleries, some of the treasures taken by the British from Ethiopian emperor Tewodros’ fortress in Maqdala, in 1868. The Emperor had taken several British envoys as hostage and so the British retaliated by attacking the fortress and the city, looting its treasury and  … Read more

Exhibition of Bencharong Porcelain & Related Arts, Bangkok

Last month, I was very fortunate to be given a tour of the excellent ‘Bencharong Journey: From China to Siam’, an exhibition of the colourful Bencharong porcelain produced in China for the Thai market, by the exhibition’s curator, the author and researcher Dawn Rooney. The exhibition, which also included excellent examples of Thai silver and  … Read more

Visiting the UNESCO-Protected Necropolis at Al Ayn, Oman

Earlier this year we visited the astounding series of rock tombs at Al Ayn in central northern Oman, north of Nizwa towards the border with the UAE on the Arabian Peninsula. The site is quite isolated and little visited. The tombs only became known to the outside world in the early 1970s and are believed  … Read more

Visiting Bangkok’s Private Prasart Museum

Bangkok’s privately-owned Prasart Museum can be difficult to find but it is well worth the effort – it is splendid. We visited earlier this month. The Museum was founded by Prasart Vongsakul, and comprises an enclosed compound of a series of buildings set amid particularly beautiful landscaped tropical gardens and ponds. The buildings are full  … Read more

Visiting Zanzibar’s Beit el Amani Museum

We visited the Peace Memorial Museum (Beit el Amani) in Stone Town, Zanzibar, in late December.  It is the main museum in Stone Town dedicated to the cultures of the Swahili Coast, which are a blend of indigenous African, Indian and Middle Eastern (particularly Omani) influence, despite its name. The museum is in a fine  … Read more

Opening of Raffles Exhibition, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

We attended the opening night of ‘Raffles in Southeast Asia’ earlier this month – a major new exhibition at Singapore’s superb Asian Civilisation Museum. The exhibition, a collaboration between the ACM and the British Museum, marks the 200th anniversary of Raffle’s arrival in Singapore. It includes items collected by Raffles whilst administering Java now held  … Read more

Presentation in Bangkok on Fine, Antique Thai Silver

Attended recently a superb presentation by Paul Bromberg in conjunction with the publication of his new book ‘Thai Silver and Nielloware’ (Riverbooks, 2019). The evening was held at the historic Chakrabongse Villas on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. The Villas provided the perfect backdrop for the occasion. They belong to the Chakrabongse family, part  … Read more

Exploring the Carved, Wooden Doors of Zanzibar

It is believed that there are 277 remaining carved wooden doors in Zanzibar, such as the examples shown here photographed on a recent visit to the island. It is the largest concentration on the Swahili Coast. (The final two images show lintel panels we have had, now sold, which came to the UK during the  … Read more

Rosewater Antiques in the Islamic World

Rosewater, made from steeping rosewater petals in water,  traditionally has been used across the Islamic world from the Middle East to Indonesia. It is used in conjunction with religious rituals such as weddings and burials. But it is also used simply to freshen up oneself and one’s environs. In many traditional, Islamic-derived cultures, it is  … Read more

Visiting Sur, Oman – another unique home for Omani Jewellery

Sur, on Oman’s coast, was an important port for Oman’s trade with Zanzibar and the rest of the Swahili Coast on Africa’s East Coast as well as with Gujurat in India. It was a vibrant commercial port. Trade financing and ship building were also important industries. The town grew rich and with riches the demand  … Read more

Visiting Nizwa – Oman’s Old Silver Jewellery Capital

Nizwa, in Oman’s interior, was an important centre for the manufacture of silver jewellery for Bedouin clients. For that reason we visited it recently. (It was also the old capital of Oman, when Oman and Muscat were essentially ruled as two different territories.) Today, there is little or no silver production in the city. Oman’s  … Read more

Lending to a new exhibition on Hieronymous Bosch

Cross cultural influence & the international trade in luxury goods has been going on for centuries. Art historians are still surprised to see accurate representations of Middle Eastern & Asian objects in European paintings painted 5oo years ago or more. But it’s no surprise when one has an understanding of economics. We have just lent  … Read more

Visiting Oman’s New National Museum

Omani jewellery and other artefacts are becoming more popular with collectors and is emerging as a speciality for us. Accordingly, we have just visited Oman’s new National Museum in the capital Muscat. Many examples of local traditional dress & jewellery are on display in a magnificent, new, purpose-built building. The collection emphasises Oman’s tribal diversity  … Read more

Launch of ‘Desert Silver: Understanding Traditional Jewellery from the Middle East and North Africa’

Last night we hosted in the Gallery the London launch of the superb new edition of Desert Silver: Understanding Traditional Jewellery from the Middle East and North Africa by Sigrid van Roode, a Netherlands-based archaeologist and Egyptologist. The book provides an excellent overview of the silver jewellery worn and places it in the cultural, trade and migration  … Read more

Thanksgiving 2018

A very happy Thanksgiving to all our US clients wherever in the world you might be. Thanksgiving has its origins as a harvest festival with thanks being given for the bounty that the land had provided. Turkeys became synonymous with such bounty and now are central to the traditional Thanksgiving meal. The example here is  … Read more

Recent Sales to Museums Worldwide

Museum sales are an important part of what we do. We sell to museums around the world, and in the last two months, we have sold, or are in the process of selling, these seven items to four  museums in Germany, the US & Singapore. In the last five or so years we have sold  … Read more

Visit by Author Paul Bromberg – Thai Silver

Paul Bromberg visited our gallery in London last week, ahead of the publication of his new book, Thai Silver and Nielloware, to be published in December by River Books. Paul, who is based in Bangkok, is a great friend. He is also a contributing editor of Arts of Asia magazine, and the editor of The  … Read more

SOAS ‘Silk Roads’ Visit

We hosted a visit to our gallery yesterday of around 30 wonderful students from the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), part of University College London. The visit and talk was part of SOAS’s ‘Maritime Silk Route: Across the Seas of Asia’ course.  Items associated with trade and travel were examined with particular reference  … Read more

Chinese Temple Visit, Central London

More than 120,000 ethnic Chinese live in London (about 1.5% of the city’s population), where there has been a significant Chinese population since the 19th century. Mostly, they have come from the UK’s colonies and former colonies including Hong Kong, Malaysia & Singapore. So traditionally, the population has been mostly Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka & Teochiu.  … Read more

Our November Catalogue is Coming…

Our November monthly catalogue will be available from this coming Wednesday – October 31.  Receive our catalogues here if you don’t already (almost 10,000 collectors & curators do!) Forty new items will be added – from India, Indonesia, Ottoman Turkey, Tibet, Philippines & elsewhere, including the fine Indian gold earrings shown here. There will also be  … Read more

Visit by the Author Dawn Rooney

The marvellous Dawn Rooney, who is usually based in Bangkok, visited us in London this week. She is one of the finest writers on Southeast Asian art around. Her latest book, on Thai Bencharong porcelain and published by RiverBooks,  is shown here, along with several of Dawn’s past books. Dawn is a rare author in  … Read more

Opening of the British Museum’s New Islamic Galleries

We attended the opening last night of the British Museum’s new Islamic Galleries. The refurbishment has been funded by Malaysia’s Albukhary Foundation, which is behind Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic Art Museum. The Malaysians insisted that the British Museum not just display Persian, Ottoman & Mughal arts passing this off as the sum total of Islamic art  … Read more