Place of Origin: JAVA, INDONESIA
Date: 19th Century
Overall with arrows: 690mm (27 inches)
This superb quiver comes from Java, Indonesia, and like the well-known shadow puppets of the same origin, it is made of cow or buffalo hide which has been dried, carved and painted.
The upper section of the quiver has been cut into a complex trellis pattern of curling vines or waves which are wonderfully framed by the sloping bodies of naga, mythical sea serpents which are thought to have entered the Javanese visual tradition from the 10th century A.D. in temple complexes and bathing places as stone water spouts. Their crowns here indicate naga’s dominion over the underworld, and their scales, teeth and eyes are picked out in hues of yellow and red which have taken on pale beachy tones over time. The lower section is decorated with shell-motifs, lines painted on their surfaces to reflect the ridges of their real-life counterparts. A central medallion, which appears to read as the letters “SY”, is surrounded by more of these shells, as the quiver then tapers to the point where the arrowheads rest.
The reverse is undecorated (though the silhouette created by the frontal carving is aesthetically impressive in itself) and pierced neatly with five holes – one for each arrow. Also visible are the careful stitching and knotted thread which hold the quiver together, as well as the back of the leather lining which hems the lower section.
Five well-preserved arrows bestow the quiver with its more functional context, though one imagines the bow that once accompanied this quiver – the set being as well decorated as it is – may have been used ceremoniously. Each bamboo arrow is encased with a slender iron tip, most of the fletching preserved and the ends painted in red and gold.
Two quivers of similar form – both cut with the same openwork arrangement though without painted decoration – are preserved in the British Museum: Museum Nos. As1859,1228.229.a and AS1859,1228.230.a.
 Ann R. Kinney, Worshipping Siva and Buddha: The Temple Art of East Java, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2003, pp. 51-52; 201.