An Asian Bestiary | Monkey
CARVING, CONTORTED MONKEY FIGURE, PAINTED
Catalog No: 70.2/ 2872
This monkey carving from Borneo is an alluring stylistic anomaly. Probably created for fun as a toy, it does not follow forms commonly used by Borneo cultures when carvings are made for ritual purposes or for sale as contemporary art. The carver was most likely a member of the Kenyah ethnic group living in the upper Baram River Valley in northern Borneo, Malaysia. The monkey with a red body and dark face bears a strong resemblance to the red leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicund), also known as the maroon langur. Red leaf monkeys seldom leave the forest canopy and the carving evokes the common sight of the monkey sleeping on its stomach wrapped around a tree-limb.
SHADOW PUPPET, ARCHER & MONKEY
Catalog No: 70.3/ 88
This shadow puppet is from the monkey army of Hanuman, the monkey hero who help Rama defeat the demon king Ravana in the ancient Indian epic poem Ramayana. The Ramayana is performed in many shadow play traditions in South and Southeast Asia. This version is from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh where oral tradition dates the origin of these performances to the Satavahana dynasty in 200 BCE. The puppets are made from the hides of various animals correlated to the kinds of characters they portray, deerskin for gods but only common goatskin for this soldier monkey.
 
NETSUKE, MONKEY IN JACKET EXAMINING THROUGH SPECTACLES A NETSUKE
Catalog No: 70.3/ 481
This Japanese ivory netsuke, signed by Kogyoku (1814–1870), is a whimsical caricature of a netsuke collector as a bespectacled monkey engrossed in the study of one of these small and fanciful objects. Used to suspend a small container (inro) holding personal belongings from the sash (obi) of a pocket-less Japanese kimono, carved netsuke became status symbols during the Tokugawa period (1603–1867) because they were exempt from the sumptuary laws governing codes of dress. Intricately carved netsuke became collectables in their own right. An early 19th century painting on silk by Yamaguchi Soken is the earliest known satirical rendering of a collector monkey. The monkey is a common netsuke subject, portrayed playfully with an acknowledgment of its close relation to humans.
 
If the format of any material on the website interferes with your ability to access that material, please contact us at accessibility@amnh.org.