Bracelet 'Java-la-Grande. India, Goa, Indo-Portuguese, circa second quarter of the 16th century (?)', silver-gilt wire / paint / iron / plastic / wood, designed and made by Robert Baines, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2004-2005
This intriguing sculptural bracelet was made by Robert Baines, a leading Australian artist-jeweller and goldsmith based in Melbourne. Baines' career spans 30 years of gold and silversmithing practice as an artist, researcher and educator. A professor at the RMIT, in 2007, he was honoured with the national award ¬?Living Treasure: Masters of Australian Craft'.
Baines holds a doctorate for research into ancient goldsmithing techniques of granulation and this bracelet is made using expertly reconstructed ancient techniques of filigree and granulation. It is part of Baines' fictional jewellery series commenting on the modern world, particularly our laissez-faire approach to a construct of cultural history in a world of information overload where information and knowledge, myth and reality, the fake and the real can be easily confused.
The bracelet was inspired by a theory that the Portuguese may have discovered and mapped Australia¬?s eastern coastline long before Captain Cook, between 1521 and 1524. This theory is based on the existence of several French world maps (Dieppe maps) based on Portuguese information from the mid 16th century showing a large continent called Jave (Java) la Grande, south of Indonesia.
Conceived by an artist who ¬?toys with the mythology of our culture¬?, this ¬?Portuguese¬? bracelet was made, tongue-in-cheek, as a circa 1630 material evidence of this alternative historical narrative. Like a medieval reliquary, it incorporates an iron key, which Baines speculates could be one of the now lost but once famous Geelong Keys found on a beach by Charles La Trobe who hypothesized that they were ¬?old¬? and possibly once belonging to visiting Portuguese sailors. The bracelet includes more ¬?precious relics¬? of Australia¬?s 16th century European exploration: the two bezel-set and ¬?cruciform cut¬? pieces of wood, Baines claims, are from the Mahogany Ship, a Portuguese caravel believed by some to lie beneath the sand in the Armstrong Bay near Warrnambool, in southwest Victoria.
The bracelet has been presented in exhibitions and publications as a real artefact, however, the four red plastic kangaroos provide a clue that it is not, and in the process challenge the audience¬?s first perception, inviting discussion on the object¬?s meaning. To strengthen arguments about the bracelet's authenticity, it can be displayed with supporting ¬?evidence¬? in the form of computer generated images featuring it in old paintings. The most striking of these is an important 17th century portrait of a noble Portuguese women (¬?Portrait of a lady¬?, c 1620- 40 artist unknown) who wears the bracelet, perfectly matching her elaborate costume, on her arm.
This bracelet was created in response to an invitation from Lisbon's National Museum of Antique Art that asked international artists to create objects inspired by their collections. When the results were shown in the ¬?Closer¬? exhibition in 2005 - part of the 10th International Symposium of Contemporary Jewellery - ¬?Lava-la-Grande¬? was placed next to a 16th century Indo-Portuguese altar casket (tabernacle) in gold filigree, which had been Baines¬? direct stylistic and technical inspiration.
Eva Czernis-Ryl, Curator, 2011
Made by Robert Baines in Melbourne in 2004-2005.
Baines' career spans 30 years of gold and silversmithing practice as an artist, researcher and educator. In 2007 he was honoured with the national award ¬?Living Treasure: Masters of Australian Craft'. Dr Baines received his doctorate for research into ancient goldsmithing techniques of granulation and is professor of art at the RMIT.
Selected exhibitions prior to acquistion by this museum:
2005: Made for and first displayed in exhibition 'Closer' as part of conference: 'Simposio de Joalharia Centemporanea 2005 'at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon.
2006: Clemenger Contemporray Art Award, Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
2008: SOFA New York (annual Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair); 'Treasure of Evidence- Schatzkammer der Beweise, Schmuck von Robert Baines, Australien', 4 December - 22 February 2009,
2009: Touring exhibition organised by the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany. Previous venues included the Designmuseo in Helsinki.
2010: 'Returning to the jewell is a return from exile', TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Victoria.