VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Gamelan
1859,1228.201
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

A gamelan is a set of instruments that traditionally act as accompaniments to puppet shows, dance dramas, feasts and ceremonies in Indonesia. In the performance of shadow puppet plays, the orchestra highlights the moments of drama, and provides the music that fits the personality of characters on stage. Sir Stamford Raffles, former Lieutenant-Governor of Java and founder of Singapore, was the first Englishman to bring back to England not one, but two whole gamelan orchestras: one in the British Museum and another now in Claydon House in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. The frames for the instruments of the Raffles gamelan are unique and nothing like them survives in any other known gamelan. The instruments are carved to represent peacocks, dragons, deer and other animals. The gamelan retains an important place in Javanese cultural life, but has also been taken up increasingly by musicians outside Indonesia. There are various kinds of gamelan, the main differences being the number and kind of instruments that make up each orchestra and the tonal system used. An orchestra may contain a few instruments or more than thirty.

History of the Object
Made in the first half of the nineteenth century and collected by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.

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Type
Musical instruments 
Materials
 
Measurements
Width 16 cm. Height 46 cm. Length 90 cm.  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Indonesia; Java 
Geography
Indonesia 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th Century; 1800-1859 
Function
Musical instrument 
Acquisition
Donated to the Museum by Rev William Charles Raffles Flint in 1859. 
Copyright
Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
British Museum 
Museum
British Museum 
Credit line
 

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