Online Collection

Collections



Asian Art Museum Logo
Shadow puppet of the demon king Ravana riding a chariot into battle, from the Thai version of the epic of Rama
Place of Origin: Thailand
Date: approx. 1850-1900
Materials: Hide with pigments and bamboo
Dimensions: H. 76 3/16 in x W. 55 7/8 in, H. 193.5 cm x W. 142 cm
Credit Line: Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Southeast Asian Art Collection
Department: Southeast Asian Art
Collection: Theatrical Arts
Object Number: 2006.27.115.2
On Display: No

Description

Label:

Several sorts of puppet performances using large or small shadow puppets or three-dimensional rod puppets were popular forms of entertainment in Siam. In the large shadow-puppet theater in which puppets such as those shown here were used, the stories were all drawn from the epic of Rama, known in Thai as the Rammakian.

In performance each large leather puppet, which has no moving parts, is held and manipulated by a puppeteer while a male narrator tells the story accompanied by a Siamese classical orchestra.

Here Ravana, the villain of the Rama epic, charges into battle on a chariot being drawn by a mythical lion. He is accompanied by a lieutenant. Since Ravana is king of Lanka, his chariot is ornamented with royal regalia such as the ceremonial fans at the rear similar to ceremonial standards in the collection (see 2006.27.113.1-.4 and 2006.27.113.1-.2).

Ravana's ten heads are suggested here by the multiple heads piled in two tiers above his main head. Apparently three heads are understood to be in back of the main head, and the second tier has another four heads. There is one at the top, making a total of nine. According to the scholars Niyada Laosuthon and Waldemar Sailer, "it is possible that the tenth one is not given since ten is not an auspicious number. Or, some say that the tenth head is represented by the person wearing the mask, but that may well be a good joke."


More Information

Exhibition History: "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma," Asian Art Museum, October 23, 2009–January 10, 2010

"The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017
Additional Label:

This Thai shadow puppet, and the theatrical mask nearby, follow a strong mainland Southeast Asian tradition of showing Ravana’s multiple heads stacked in tiers. (Usually the main head is understood to have three smaller heads at the back.) The main faces, with their popping eyes, bulbous noses, and grimacing mouths are grotesque, but all the refinement of the Thai court is shown in the sumptuous garments and jeweled ornaments. Ravana’s face is not red as in Indonesia, but— following mainland custom—green.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)


Label:

Several sorts of puppet performances using large or small shadow puppets or three-dimensional rod puppets were popular forms of entertainment in Siam. In the large shadow-puppet theater in which puppets such as those shown here were used, the stories were all drawn from the epic of Rama, known in Thai as the Rammakian.

In performance each large leather puppet, which has no moving parts, is held and manipulated by a puppeteer while a male narrator tells the story accompanied by a Siamese classical orchestra.

Here Ravana, the villain of the Rama epic, charges into battle on a chariot being drawn by a mythical lion. He is accompanied by a lieutenant. Since Ravana is king of Lanka, his chariot is ornamented with royal regalia such as the ceremonial fans at the rear similar to ceremonial standards in the collection (see 2006.27.113.1-.4 and 2006.27.113.1-.2).

Ravana's ten heads are suggested here by the multiple heads piled in two tiers above his main head. Apparently three heads are understood to be in back of the main head, and the second tier has another four heads. There is one at the top, making a total of nine. According to the scholars Niyada Laosuthon and Waldemar Sailer, "it is possible that the tenth one is not given since ten is not an auspicious number. Or, some say that the tenth head is represented by the person wearing the mask, but that may well be a good joke."


Exhibition History: "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma," Asian Art Museum, October 23, 2009–January 10, 2010

"The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017
Expanded Label:

This Thai shadow puppet, and the theatrical mask nearby, follow a strong mainland Southeast Asian tradition of showing Ravana’s multiple heads stacked in tiers. (Usually the main head is understood to have three smaller heads at the back.) The main faces, with their popping eyes, bulbous noses, and grimacing mouths are grotesque, but all the refinement of the Thai court is shown in the sumptuous garments and jeweled ornaments. Ravana’s face is not red as in Indonesia, but— following mainland custom—green.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)