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Headdress for the hero Rama in the dance-drama of the epic of Rama
approx. 1950–1960
Gilded lacquer, wood, silver, glass, synthetic textile, rawhide, and paper
Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection,

When enacted in Siamese classical dance, Rama and Sita (hero and heroine of the Rama epic) wear ornate costumes and headdresses. The costumes resemble a Siamese king’s full ceremonial garb (such as coronation attire). The higher the multitiered gold crown, which tapers to the spire, the more important the character is in the story. Lower-ranking female roles, such as those of princesses, wear tiaras.

Before the actors and actresses dance, they pay homage to respected teachers and spirits. They place their headdresses, diadems, masks, and musical instruments on an altar along with offerings such as flowers and garlands. After the offering ceremony, the performers put their headdresses on and tuck a fresh flower behind one ear.

These headdresses have tags inside indicating that they came from Narasin, a well-known classical dance paraphernalia store located near the National Theater in Bangkok. They most likely were purchased in the 1950s.

all text & images © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

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