Ritual vessel with naga

Historical period(s)
14th - 16th century
Copper alloy
H x W x D: 11.4 × 22.9 × 16.5 cm (4 1/2 × 9 × 6 1/2 in)
Indonesia, East Java
Credit Line
Collection of Ann and Gilbert Kinney
Long-term loan
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel


Hinduism, Indonesia, Java, naga
Provenance research underway.

Known as nagas, serpents are powerful symbols in South and Southeast Asia. They guard the watery underworld, where they reside in jeweled palaces and protect corals and pearls. In Southeast Asia, nagas also represent the bridge that connects the human and divine worlds.

Nagas are therefore among the most prevalent signs in Indonesian art, ranging from relief carvings and architectural elements to ritual objects. In this ritual water vessel, the naga's tail forms the handle, and its mouth serves as the spout. Flowing through the naga's mouth imbued the water with sanctity. Nagas are said to carry jewels on their heads, seen here as a conical bump.

Published References
  • Nandana Chutiwongs. Bronze Ritual Implements in the Majapahit Period: Meaning and Function. No. 6, vol. 30, no. 6 Hong Kong. pp. 69-84, p. 74, fig. 10.
Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
F|S Southeast Asia
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.