circa 1920. Thailand (possibly Cambodia). Glass, Gilt Lacquer & Silver Dancer’s Headdress for Sita.
Dance dramas such as Thai versions of the Rama epic featuring Hanuman, king or the monkeys, Rama, and Sita, were very popular in the Kingdom of Siam in
the 19th and early 20th centuries. Headdresses such as this particularly fine example were made for the dancer who played the key role of Sita. As heroine of
the epic, she, like Rama, were attired regally with ornate costumes and spectacular crown-like headdresses. Lower ranking females such as princesses wore
diadems rather than full crowns with tiered spires.
This headdress comprises gilded lacquer, black lacquer, wood, rawhide, faceted glass spangles, and silver. The glass spangles are mounted in a jour silver
settings, in complex bands of silver wire, and with many mounted in flower-like settings en tremble on wire stems so that the spangles shimmied and moved in
a frenetic and over-exaggerated fashion with any minor movement made by the dancer. The silver settings are particularly fine.
The crown incorporates a diadem with gilded rawhide flanges or wings that frame the dancer’s face on either side and which are embellished with fine wire
netting inset with dozens of silver-mounted glass spangles.
Before the dancers performed, it was traditional for them to place their headdresses, diadems, masks and musical instruments on an altar along with offerings
to respected teachers and spirits. After the ceremony, the headdresses were put on and a small, single fresh flower was tucked behind the ear (McGill, 2009,
p. 108). | Michael Backman