Treasure Ships – Art in the Age of Spices – Part 1

This exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia includes 300 outstanding and rarely-seen works of ceramics, decorative arts, furniture, metalware, paintings, prints, and textiles from public and private collections around the world.
The selected works of art reveal how the international trade in spices and other exotic commodities inspired dialogue between Asian and European artisits, centuries-old conversations whose heritage is the aesthetic globalism we know today.

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The map by Petrus Plancius is a masterpiece of cartographic art, the sharpness of the image shows that it was one of the first maps to be engraved on copper plate. On the base of the map are the spices, the nutmeg and cloves that the Portuguese, Dutch and English were seeking and the map served as a prospectus for the raising of funds for the first Dutch expedition to the East Indies in 1595 by ‘The Company for Far Distant Lands’ which was a forerunner to the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

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After Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1497 the Portuguese came to the East ‘In search of Christian and Spices’. Their superior ships and weapons allowed them to establish trading bases in Goa, Malacca, Ternate, Banda, Macao and Nagasaki and extend their trading network across Asia.They were followed almost hundred years later by the Dutch and the English in 1595 and 1601 respectively.


At the entrance to the exhibit are examples of the weapons and armour that the Europeans used to establish their trading bases across the Eastern Seas. A Portuguese helmet and a Dutch cannon are on display


This is a kris made for a Sultan, its blade is inlaid with gold and its sheath decorated with diamonds and semi-precious stones and although purely decorative it represents the weapons used by the islanders to fight the Portuguese and the Dutch intruders.

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The Portuguese captured the island of Goa on the west coast of India and used it as the base for their Estado do India and their expanding trade routes across the East Indies and the Orient. This map shows the development of the city Goa in 1699.

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Francisco de Almeida became the first Governor of Goa and the Estado da India


This large wooden chest with a VOC insignia on its front was probably used by VOC personnel to bring their possessions by ship to the East Indies or to be filled with silver dollars to purchase spices and other trade items in the archipelago.

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Spanish silver dollars were the common trade currency but these are German silver thaler coins dated 1592 to 1624 and were recovered from the wreck of the Batavia which sank in 1629 off the coast of Western Australia.


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Treasure Ships – Art in the Age of Spices – Part 2

This exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia is the first exhibition in Australia to present the complex artisitic and cultural interactions between the East and the West from the 16th to the 19th centuries – a period known as the ‘Age of Spices’.

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A feature of the exhibition is the diverse range of Christian artwork created at ports such as Goa and Nagasaki and on loan from Portugal and India. Especially this large golden salver used in religious ceremonies and illustrating the Manueline taste of the period. When filled with water the central part represented an island surrounded by the sea.

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It is decorated with animals, foliage and a maritime scene of a caravel in stormy seas.


Speaking of stormy seas the Jesuit priest Saint Francis Xavier sailed to Goa, then Malacca and then the Spice Islands to bring the Christian message to the Eastern Seas. A frightful storm arose off Ambon and the saint immersed his cross in the water to calm the seas but the cross was lost in the water. It is believed that later when Saint Francis was walking on the beach a crab emerged from the sea holding the cross in its claws and the cross was later enshrined in this silver reliquary.

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The Portuguese, Dutch and English traders soon learned of the popularity of Indian textiles throughout the archipelago and that textiles could replace silver as a trading currency. Here is a baju or jacket in the style of Indian chintz and a sembagi or waist wrap garment made in India and both found in Indonesia.


Court garments like this voluminous dodot waist wrap were popular with the aristocracy throughout Indonesia and have often been preserved as heirloom items.

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The most valued Indian cloth was the patolu or double ikat cloth from Gujarat such as this one displaying a procession of elephants with their royal passengers and foot-bearers found in Indonesia.

Elephant patula

Here is the Rice Godess Dewi Sri and her consort Mas Sadono seated in front of a Gujurati patolu with a ‘flowering basket’ design. Mas Sadono is also wearing an Indian silk patolu cloth as a waistwrap under his belt.

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The exhibition will be at the Art Gallery of South Australia until the end of August when it will move to the Art Gallery of Western Australia until the end of January.

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Terra Australis 1606

Terra Australis 1606: The Voyages of the Duyfken & the San Pedrico
Tuesday, 16 June 2015, 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Venue: SMSA Mitchell Theatre
280 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Hendrik Hondius 1641 State Library of NSW

Hendrik Hondius 1641
State Library of NSW

Maritime historian Ian Burnet discusses the background of these significant voyages, and their impact on subsequent events. Although Torres’ charts of his crossing were lost, Ian will review the available maps showing their voyages and reveal Australia’s first appearance on a subsequent world map.

The year 1606 saw Europeans sighting Australia twice.

The voyage of the Duyfken, captained by William Janszoon, is as important to Australian history as the Santa Maria is to Americans, producing the first chart of the Australian coastline. Reaching the west coast of Cape York, in northern Queensland, the crew of the Duyfken were the first Europeans to set foot on the continent. Their meeting with the local people was the first documented contact between the Indigenous Australians and Europeans.

Just months later, a Spanish expedition was looking for the reputed Terra Australis, the Great Southern Land of legend. After an unsuccessful search, the expedition split and second-in-command Luis de Torres, sailed west in his own ship, the San Pedrico, and a 20 foot launch. He eventually navigated the Torres Strait while contending with fierce storms and reached the Cape York Peninsula.


The replica Duyfken at Banda

The replica Duyfken at Banda

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Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices — Symposium

Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices is the first major exhibition in Australia which presents the complex artistic and cultural interactions between Europe and Asia from the 16th to 19th century, a period often referred to as the ‘Age of Spices’.

If you are planning on attending the exhibition why not join the one day symposium on Saturday June 13.

Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices

Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices

Join us for a one day symposium with exhibition curators James Bennett and Rusty Kelty and fellow scholars Ian Burnet, Father Warner D’Souza and Joanna Barrkman for a lively exploration of the artistic and cultural interactions between Europe and Asia during the ‘Age of Spices’.

Topics include the preservation of Christian art in India, the history and trade of exotic spices of Eastern Indonesia and the role and influence of Indian textiles in trade throughout the Indonesian archipelago.

When Saturday 13 June, 11am – 3pm
Where Art Gallery of South Australia, Radford Auditorium
Cost $45, $35 Members/Concession
Bookings essential Call 08 8207 7035 or Book online

All registrants are invited to attend lunch and post symposium drinks in the Function Room

Full Program
Nick Mitzevich, Director, Art Gallery of South Australia

Introduction and overview
James Bennett, co-curator, Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices and Curator of Asian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia

Journeys around the Spice Islands
Ian Burnet, author, scholar and adventurer.
A talk about the history, romance and adventure of the spice trade from Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2000 years, and how this drove ‘The Age of Discovery’.

Preserving the heritage of Christian art in India and setting up the Museum of the Archdiocesan of Bombay
Father Warner D’Souza, a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay, Fr Warner speaks of his passion, inspiration and challenges encountered in the establishment of a heritage museum in Bombay.

lunch Break in the Function Room and exhibition viewing
Including a book signing by Ian Burnet – 1pm

Encounters with traces of Indian trade cloths in Eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Joanna Barrkman, PhD candidate at the Australian National University researching the Baguia Collection.
This talk recounts encounters with Indian trade cloths and elucidates some of the key styles of cloths that were popular for trade into the Indonesian archipelago.

Guns, Christians, gold and lacquer: The arrival of the southern barbarians and their black ships
Russell Kelty, co-curator, Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices and Assistant Curator of Asian art, Art Gallery of South Australia
The arrival of the Portuguese at the tiny island of Tanegashima in 1543, off the southern coast of Japan, was the first recorded contact between Japanese and the Europeans and initiated the nanban or ‘southern barbarian’ era. The art created during this era evokes the cross cultural atmosphere at ports along the spice trade routes particularly at the terminus of Nagasaki. The annual arrival of the Portuguese black ships and their exotic menagerie depicted on Japanese screens as well as sacred Christian paintings embellished with Japanese gold and black lacquer portray the confluence of European and Japanese aesthetics which took place during this era.

Panel discussion and Q&A

Post symposium drinks in the Function Room

Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices

Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices

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Insight Indonesia –Spice Islands Saga

I realised that the 2011 Berita Satu/Jakarta Globe TV interview on Spice Islands for Insight Indonesia had never been posted to the blogsite. I hope you find it interesting.

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The Spice Islands — Underwater

Moluccan Spice Discovery 2012

Moluccan Spice Discovery 2012

The seas of the Moluccas (Maluku) in Eastern Indonesia have pristine waters and some of the greatest variety of marine life on the planet. On our 12 day voyage from Ambon to Banda to Ternate the Ombak Putih will usually find a suitable site for snorkelling and underwater exploration every day.
Here is an image of one of the members of our Spice Routes/Spice Wars 2014 sailing adventure with the Ombak Putih in the background.

Another day, another dive site

Another day, another dive site

Thanks to Randall Rutledge for the use of his underwater photographs taken on our 2014 Spice Routes/Spice Wars voyage and here are some examples of the clarity of the water and the variety of beautiful tropical fish.

Spice Islands underwater

Spice Islands underwater



A beautiful collection of soft corals



And strange sea creatures



East Indies Spice Exploration 2015
The Ombak Putih will be sailing again, September 26 to October 7 from Maumere on Flores to the Banda Islands and then to Ambon.
Details are available on this blogsite and from SeaTrek Sailing Adventures.

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Ubud Food Festival, 5-7 June 2015

Mari Makan Competition Graphic

Food Forum | The Spice Islands Friday June 5, 2:30pm, at Taman Baca

For a serving of spice island history, Ian Burnet will dish up a tale of the high seas and colonial rule focusing on Indonesia’s legendary spices, cloves and nutmeg.


Fascinated by its rich history and diverse cultures, Ian Burnet has lived, worked and travelled in Indonesia for 30 years. His two historical books – Spice Islands and East Indies – are highly revered, while his third, Archipelago – a personal story of a journey across the archipelago, will be published this year.


Please go to the Ubud Food Festival website for the full Program


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