The crown of Ayutthaya

The crown of Ayutthaya

'Bogus farangs and crony capitalists' - The trouble with national treasures and national assets - The Nation, March 6, 2005
...Thaksin wants the ancient headgear back because it is a national treasure, while at the same time he wants to hasten the sale of national assets, a programme that will benefit politicians and their cronies just as previous deals yielded billions of baht to favoured investors and their relatives.
The so-called international investors are in fact local politicians and business cronies who have set up companies abroad and can claim the right to buy stocks under prearranged allocations. The investors are not “farangs” as the public might have been led to believe but the familiar faces seen on golf courses among our CEO’s entourage...

Stolen crown theory mars Thai exhibit - TV reporter in L.A. creates stir that reaches Bangkok - San Francisco Chronicle, March 5, 2005
...But when Jom Patch of the Thai network ITV learned from interviewing curators here that the gold crown probably came from the sacred crypt and, in his words, "might be stolen,'' he thought he had himself a scoop.
...All of this information, he says, "has been in the public realm for years. I don't see what the big deal is. I don't see why it's coming up now. None of us feels comfortable about stolen property. None of us feels comfortable about an archaeological site that's looted before it can be studied. However, the Philadelphia Museum bought the crown fair and square at public auction -- the Sotheby's catalog has a full-page color photograph of the object -- and they've had it on display ever since. Why have they waited 23 years to investigate?''
The director of Thailand's Office of National Museums and the director general of the Thai Fine Arts Department were part of the delegation that flew here from Bangkok last month for the opening of the "Kingdom of Siam.'' Neither questioned the provenance of the crown, which the Sotheby's catalog notes was acquired by a dealer named Klejman in 1965...

HEADPIECE FRENZY - Unexpected boost for Chao Samphraya National Museum - Bangkok Post, March 6, 2005
...Ms Subongkot said the museum struggled with a meagre state budget, so it was hard to make the place more attractive to the public. The museum display, especially in the main building, has not been changed for nearly 40 years, she said.
The Chao Samphraya museum gets just 80,000 baht a year for maintenance. That includes everything from lawn-keeping to the conservation work on the artefacts...

Statement from the Asian Art Museum about the Post's report on the Ayutthaya crown - Bangkok Post, March 4, 2005
Post misses significance of San Francisco show
The Asian Art Museum is proud to have organised the immensely important exhibition, "The Kingdom of Siam: The Art of Central Thailand, 1350-1800"--the world's first major exhibition of art from Ayutthaya, and the first exhibition of classical art from Thailand shown in the United States in more than 30 years.
The museum worked closely with more than 15 institutions from all over the world--including the National Museum of Thailand--to bring the exhibition together, and we are delighted to showcase the rich cultural heritage of this important period of Thai history to a global audience. The exhibition is on view at the Asian Art Museum through May 8.
We at the museum are disappointed that the Bangkok Post's only reference to the exhibition focuses on one object, a beautiful crown whose place of origin in Thailand has not been conclusively confirmed by exhibition curators and other experts--despite their best efforts. The crown was borrowed from the Philadelphia Museum of Art specifically for inclusion in "The Kingdom of Siam". Before being lent to the exhibition, the crown was on display in the galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1982, and viewed by millions of visitors.
It is disheartening that Thailand's leading English newspaper makes no reference to the scholarly significance of the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue, or mentions the more than 80 other rare priceless treasures on view in the exhibition (most on view in the US for the first time, serving as unique ambassadors of Thai culture), but rather concentrates its coverage on one object that has actually been on view and accessible to the public for more than 23 years.
Asian Art Museum
San Francisco

Thais rally outside U.S. Embassy over human rights report, antique crown - AP, March 3, 2005
About 200 people rallied outside the US Embassy Thursday to protest against a US report on human rights in Thailand and to demand the return of an allegedly stolen antique gold crown.
The Thai Love Nation Group staged the protest with six elephants before dispersing peacefully after handing over a statement to embassy officials, MCOT state radio station reported...

(Photo: Post Today)

Wat Ratchaburana in Ayutthaya - March 4, 2005
(from Carl Parkes' Southeast Asia Handbook) ...Inside the Khmer-style prang, a secret crypt once guarded dozens of 15th-century murals, 200 Lopburi bronzes of Khmer-Bayon style, 300 rare U-Thong Buddhas, 100,000 votive tables, and a faboulous treasure trove of priceless gold objects. Thailand's equivalent of the Tutankhamen treasure lay untouched until 1957 when scavengers stumbled on the buried crypt. Much of the booty vanished into international art markets before the government stepped in, stopped the treasure hunters, and placed the remainder in the Ayuthaya National Museum... Thread on the forum

Thai prime minister orders investigation of golden crown allegedly taken from temple - AP, March 1, 2005
...The pure gold, 5-kilogram (11-pound), 19-centimeter- (7.5-inch-) tall crown, currently on exhibit at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, reportedly disappeared in 1957 when a temple in central Thailand was robbed by antiques thieves, local television station ITV reported Monday.
...According to Thai art historians quoted Tuesday in local media, thieves in 1957 broke into the temple in Ayutthaya province, 70 kilometers (44 miles) north of Bangkok, and stole royal gold antique urns, accessories and other artifacts. There were no laws at the time prohibiting the trade of Thai antiques...

Thailand to seek return of ancient crown from US - AFP, March 1, 2005
...Jakrapob Penkair said the cabinet agreed to seek the return of the crown dating from the Ayutthaya period, which stretched from the 14th to 18th centuries.
...Jakrapob did not elaborate on what grounds the return of the treasure, which belongs to a private collector, would be sought...

On the forum: "The Kingdom of Siam" @ Asian Art Museum, San Francisco - February 28, 2005
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