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Gold bowl with garudas and celestials
Gift of the family of Helen King Gethman, 2008.91

This gold bowl was given in 1921 as a wedding present from King Rama VI to the daughter of Hamilton King, a U.S. diplomat in Siam. It was delivered by the Siamese ambassador to King’s family in the St. Petersburg, Florida.

Bowls such as this one were made to contain religious objects or offerings. In old Siam they were included as part of the insignia of royal family members and high officials. A gold bowl was a popular wedding gift from the royal family.

This bowl is decorated with several alternating motifs: a mythical bird with human attributes (a garuda), stylized foliage, and a celestial being with hands in the gesture of adoration.

The Siamese traditionally preferred objects of high-karat gold of a reddish color. According to analysis in the museum’s conservation laboratory this bowl is 71 percent gold, 24.5 percent silver, and small quantities other metals and minerals. In Western terms this would be considered 17 karat gold. Why the surface is so reddish is not clear.

No tinted varnish or other coating was found during analysis.

all text & images © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

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