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An image of Axe head by

Viet Nam

Axe head
Place of origin
Viet Nam
Cultural origin
Dongson culture (c400s BCE - c100 CE)
3rd century BCE-2nd century BCE
Media category
Arms & armour
Materials used

14.5 x 14.9 cm

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Goldie Sternberg Southeast Asian Art Purchase Fund 1998
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Finely cast in good-quality dark green alloy, this axe head is decorated in shallow relief on both sides. The stylised animal, fish and bird motifs are typical of the Dong Son decorative repertoire. On one side along the edges the stylised shapes of two confronting crocodiles frame a squid motif (at the top) and two long beaked aquatic birds standing in a fish-filled pond (bottom). The other side depicts two confronting dragon-like animals above two humped bulls and a man. While similarly shaped battle axes have been found throughout maritime Southeast Asia, the quality and elaborate decoration on this piece indicate it was a ritual object, probably part of the grave goods of a community leader.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.298.

Bibliography (6)

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 1998, 'Collections', pg. 15-19, Sydney, 1998, 18 (colour illus.).

Matt Cox, The Connoisseur and the Philanthropist: 30 years of the Sternberg Collection, "Southeast Asian Art", pg. 25-29, Sydney, 31 Jan 2014, 28 (colour illus.).

Maud Girard-Geslan, TAASA Review, " In the Public Domain: A Dong Son Style Battle Axe", Sydney, Dec 1998, 17 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, 298 (colour illus.).

Ann Proctor, Bon Mau Co Ban - Four Colours., Analysis and discussion of selected works from AGNSW, 'Dongson Style Battle Axe - Vietnam', pg. 9-11, Sydney, Feb 2003, 9 (colour illus.), 10-11. section 4

Bon Mau Co Ban - Four Colours. Vietnamese Art Case Study, Sydney, Feb 2003, not paginated, (colour illus.). section 5

Exhibition history (1)

The connoisseur and the philanthropist: 30 years of the Sternberg Collection of Chinese Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 31 Jan 2014–27 Apr 2014