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Saron attributed to Java, mid-19th century

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NMM 2684.  Saron attributed to Java, mid-19th century

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NMM 2684. Saron attributed to Java, mid-19th century. Metallophone with nine bronze bars, placed horizontally across a wooden frame, held in place with small metal nails. Stand painted blue and red, with carvings highlighted in yellow. An ensemble instrument that originally played in small musical groups for the royal courts. Today, sarons of varying sizes and ranges play in gamelans throughout Java. Length of frame: 85 cm; width of frame (in middle): 25 cm; height of frame: 19 cm. Board of Trustees, 1980.

This instrument was originally purchased in Batavia-Centrum (now Jakarta) by Walter A. May, a passenger on the four-and-a-half-month-long Southern Hemisphere Cruise of the S. S. Franconia (Cunard line), which left New York City on January 9, 1934. A letter of authentication (dated March 20, 1934), prepared for U.S. Customs by a representative of the interior decorating firm from which May obtained the instrument, was addressed to his cabin aboard ship. It claimed that the instrument was a "Balinese Gamelan from an old Court, and several hundreds [sic] years old." One might speculate that this particular Walter A. May was the affluent, retired owner of the eighteen May Drug Companies of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that were sold to Drug, Inc. in 1929--shortly before the stock market crash. Whether or not this is the same person, a Walter A. May was one of 415 individuals who cruised some "37,555 miles in all, not counting side trips," according to an article about the return of the Franconia to New York, published in the June 1, 1934 edition of the New York Times. The article also notes that the featured speaker aboard the cruise was Hendrik Willem van Loon, the noted Dutch-American historian and journalist, who "gave thirty-two lectures and six broadcasts during the long voyage. Mr. van Loon did not lecture his fellow passengers about places they were to visit, but talked about societal philosophy."


Details of Carving and Painting on Wings and End of Saron Stand

Detail of carving on left wing
Side view of left wing
Detail of carving on end of saron stand

Side view of right wing

Detail of carving on right wing



Carving and Painting on Front and Back of Saron Stand

Detail of carving on front of saron stand

Front

Detail of carving on back of saron stand

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Go to Annotated Checklist of Musical Instruments From East Asia on Display at the NMM

Go to Annotated Checklist of Musical Instruments From Oceania on Display at the NMM

Go to Annotated Checklist of Musical Instruments In the Kyai Rengga Manis Everist Gamelan

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Most recent update:   September 21, 2010

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