Rare large antique bronze dorsal fin gong from Brunei, on the island of Borneo. This gong, or tawak-tawak, was created using the lost wax process and then cast in bronze in the 19th century. All of the decorations are raised and dimensional, responding well to display lighting. The bronze is thick and heavy, with a wonderful aged patina, showing use wear on the edge and some of the raised elements the naga's feet and dorsal fin.
The culture in Borneo was heavily influenced by the Chinese, reflected in the two mythical dragon-like sea serpents, or Naga, that decorate this gong. These are accompanied by fish and stylized floral or vegetative elements. The front and side of the gong are further decorated with scrolled borders. There is a quite pronounced central dorsal fin extending about 1 1/2 inches, that is typical of the form.
Naga gongs of this sort were typically used only for special ceremonial events, such as to call together the village. Their makers were considered to have mystical or magical aspects that they then applied in the creation of the gongs, investing them with special qualities.
These gongs are deep in proportion to the face compared to other Asian gongs, with sides angling outward towards the face. All of the decorations are raised and quite dimensional. This, combined with the overall projection of the piece due to the depth of the sides and the immediately graphic quality of the dorsal fin, make for a particularly dramatic textural presentation in display; one that responds well to spot lighting. This is a very versatile character piece that would hold its own in a range of decor from traditional, ethnocentric to modern.
An earlier gong of similar form is in the collection of the National Museum of Singapore. Another was collected by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, and publisher of 'The history of Java', in 1817, and is in the collection of the British Museum.
Measures approximately 13 1/2 inches across the face, 3 inches in depth with an additional 1 1/2 inches projection for the dorsal fin, for a total of 4 1/2".
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