Indonesia, eastern Java
H. 5 3/8 in. (13.7 cm)
Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Bequest of Samuel Eilenberg, 1998 (2000.284.42)
The open mouth and staring eyes of this charming unclad figure give him a somewhat astonished expression. Made of reddish brown earthenware, the man stands frontally and holds his arms aloft, bent at the elbows. His stomach and posterior are noticeably full and his arms and legs well rounded. In Southeast Asia, earthenware sculptures appear to be unique to Indonesia. In addition to standing figures such as this one, several statuettes of seated figures with their knees pulled up and bearing lugubrious expressions are known. Some of them have a short tang on the bottom, suggesting that they served as bottle stoppers. Others, however, have no evident function.
Figures with uplifted arms are often identified as images of ancestors among the indigenous cultures of Indonesia. Representing both actual and legendary forebears, such figures were often intended to contain the spirit of an ancestor during rituals.