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Pair of earrings

19th century-20th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Lembata East Nusa Tenggara Lesser Sunda Islands Indonesia
    19th century-20th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    7.0 x 2.2 x 1 cm each :

    a - earring, 6.8 x 2.1 x 1 cm

    b - earring, 6.8 x 2.1 x 1 cm

    Bequest of Christopher Worrall Wilson 2010
    Lower Asian gallery
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    These silver earrings demonstrate the widespread dispersion and stylistic variation of the omega or open-oval form, an ancient design in sacred jewellery throughout mainland and insular Southeast Asia. Examples of omega ornaments in jade and bone occur as early as 500 BCE among Austronesian groups living in Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam. Symbolising female genitalia and associated with fertility and abundance, the basic omega form has undergone various manifestations among the animist and ancestral cultures of Indonesia, with ornaments ranging from stylised forms with minor embellishments to elaborate examples incorporating figurative depictions of humans and animals. The elongated and pointed silver omega ornaments of Lembata worn by females were an essential exchange item in marriage negotiations. The granulation patterning at the base of the earrings may reference rice stalks – a further allusion to fertility and abundance.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

    • Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019

    • Elemental, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Jul 2022–2024

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

  • Provenance

    Nomadic Rug Traders, pre 2004, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased in Bali, Indonesia.

    Mariann Ford, 2004-Dec 2010, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased from Nomadic Rug Traders (art dealership). Donated to the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010.