Travels of the Leiden statues

In 1803 Nicolaus Engelhard moved the statues from Candi Singosari to his garden in Semarang. The Nandishvara and Mahakala came from the front niches of the temple, the Durga from the northern niche, and the Ganesha from the rear niche. Engelhard left the Agastya in the southern niche, because it was in pieces. This statue has now been restored and is the only one still in its original location.

Engelhard also removed a Nandi and a Bhairava that he found in the immediate neighbourhood of the temple. In 1819, at the demand of Caspar (C.G.C) Reinwardt, he relinquished them ‘to enrich the nation’s public collections’, in his own words, he ‘generously presented them to the government, to send to His Majesty the King and be placed in the National Museum of Antiquities’.

The Ganesha, Nandi and Bhairava were the first to be shipped. They went to Amsterdam, where they were placed in the garden of the Royal Institute of Sciences, Arts and Fine Arts, in the Trippenhuis at Kloveniersburgwal 29. The other three statues (Durga, Nandishvara and Mahakala) were temporarily kept at the botanical garden (now Kebun Raya) in Buitenzorg (Bogor) and arrived in Leiden several years later, in 1827 and 1828, where they were housed in the National Museum of Antiquities. The three statues from Amsterdam joined the Leiden statues in 1841.

In 1903, all the Javanese antiquities in the National Museum of Antiquities were transferred to Museum Volkenkunde. In 2005 the statues briefly returned to Indonesia, after almost 200 years, for the exhibition ‘Warisan Budaya Bersama’ (Shared Cultural Heritage), which was organized by the National Museum in Jakarta in partnership with Museum Volkenkunde.

The Brahma in the collection of the MV came to Leiden through the expedition of C.G.C. Reinwardt, a professor of botany in Leiden and founder of the botanical garden (now Kebun Raya) in Buitenzorg (Bogor). He probably removed it from the site when he was there in 1822 with the Bik brothers. It was the first to arrive in the National Museum of Antiquities.