Philippine Gold

A feature by the New Yorker

Before the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and the Spanish fleet, in 1521, the Philippines were home to diverse (and too little studied) societies with sophisticated metallurgical technology and, on the evidence here, a taste for bling. This fantastic exhibition, co-organized with the Ayala Museum, in Manila, includes more than a hundred gold objects made between the tenth and the thirteenth centuries, most of them discovered in the last forty years. Precious metal was used for adornment—fluted bangles, diamond-patterned sashes, serpentine ear ornaments—but also for liturgical objects, such as a strange, asymmetrical vessel in the shape of a kinnari, or bird-woman. (When visiting the show, try to tune out the unrevealing documentary, whose narrator’s booming voice echoes throughout the galleries.) The early Philippine people, or at least those at society’s upper echelons, remained opulent all the way to the grave, judging by several gold funerary masks, including one whose top edge is cunningly slit and perforated into an improvised crown. Through Jan. 3.



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