Side view of cabinet with scenes of the Himavanta forest and the Ramayana, and a pair of celestials (detail), approx. 1750-1825.

The Kingdom of Siam, The Art of Central Thailand, 1350 - 1800

On view July 16, 2005 to October 16, 2005

Located in the: Special Exhibition Galleries

The Kingdom of Siam: The Art of Central Thailand, 1350–1800 is the world’s first major exhibition of art from Thailand’s lost kingdom of Ayutthaya, which outlived China’s Ming dynasty and shone with similar brilliance. The exhibition, featuring approximately 80 rare works borrowed from collections in Thailand, Europe, and the United States, showcases the superb but little known arts of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya—one of the largest and most important kingdoms in Southeast Asia. The art works—many on view for the first time in the West—include stone and bronze Buddha images, sculptures of Hindu deities, figural and decorative wood carvings, temple furnishings, illuminated manuscripts, jewelry and textiles. Among the highlights are gold ceremonial objects from a temple crypt sealed in 1424; a full-sized temple pediment; and sections of royally-commissioned temple doors with inlaid mother of pearl. The exhibition was prepared by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, in conjunction with the National Museums of Thailand. The Peabody Essex Museum is the exclusive East Coast venue for this landmark exhibition.

While nearly all aspects of the art of culture of China, Japan, and India have been extensively studied, notably less research currently exists on the cultural contributions of Southeast Asia. The Kingdom of Siam: The Art of Central Thailand, 1350–1800 and its accompanying catalogue will make an important contribution to the body of knowledge in the field of Southeast Asian art—especially the crucial period of 1400 to 1800.

The kingdom of Ayutthaya, founded in 1351, flourished for more than 400 years—longer than China’s Ming dynasty. It was a major trading center with diplomatic ties with China, Japan, Persia, the Ryukyu kingdom (Okinawa), and, from the 17th century on, with Great Britain, France, Holland, and Portugal. In contrast to neighboring kingdoms, including perpetual rival Burma, Ayutthaya was cosmopolitan and outward–looking. The 1600s and early 1700s were a period of great prosperity and cultural accomplishment for the kingdom. Despite its strengths, increasing pressures from Burma eventually weakened the kingdom, and it was devastated by a Burmese invasion in 1767. As a result, many of Ayutthaya artifacts, especially those made of fragile materials, were destroyed. The Kingdom of Siam will provide American audiences with the unique opportunity to see some of the finest surviving works.

The PEM venue of The Kingdom of Siam is made possible through a presenting sponsorship by Grand Circle Travel. Grand Circle is the leading U.S. provider of international vacations for Americans over 50. Additional support has been provided by the Hoch Charitable Trust. Media sponsorship is provided by Classical 102.5 WCRB.

Further Reading