Transfer of statues

For early-nineteenth-century Europeans, removing sculptures from a ruined temple seemed justified: it meant rescuing them from further weathering and from depredations by the local population. It is thus no surprise that what happened to Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities also happened to Javanese sculptures.

While Raffles criticized the damage which he thought was caused by Engelhard (Raffles versus Engelhard) to the temple, he did not really object to the transfer of the sculptures to Semarang. Raffles, like Engelhard, was a collector, as demonstrated by his collection of Javanese bronzes that are now housed in the British Museum in London.

Portrait of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles

By 1904, however, opinion had changed: G.P. Rouffaer called Engelhard’s action ‘the first great temple robbery at Singosari’. It should be mentioned that looting, removing sculptures from their original locations, and using temples as quarries were also common practices among local communities.

Nevertheless, not all Javanese were pleased with Engelhard’s measures. According to an 1814 report by a Colonel Adams, the villagers in Singosari moved some of the remaining sculptures deeper into the forest to prevent any further removal. Other reports also indicate that the ruins of Singosari were not completely disregarded by the local people. Engelhard himself had already noted that villagers were still presenting offerings to statues at the temple site. Read more.

Travels of the Leiden statues
Travels of the Jakarta statues
Travels of other statues