Mythical aso (one of a pair)

CULTURE:
Kayan people
DATE:
19th century
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General Description

A prominent and widespread theme of the art of Borneo is a mythical animal that combines attributes of the dog and dragon in a single creature called aso. This animal signifies protection and status, and use of the image is traditionally restricted to the upper class. The animals’ notched tails indicate that the objects functioned as supports for a horizontal member that together comprised either a low table or bench. The dogs, two of an original group of four sculptures, would have faced outward at the corners, their tails supporting the horizontal member with pegs or dowels. In Kayan culture, low tables were the prerogative of the elite. The tables are said to commemorate the prowess of the Kayan warrior. They functioned to receive ritual offerings.

Adapted from

  • "Pair of mythical animals (asos)," in_ Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ ed. Bonnie Pitman (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012), 115.

  • Steven G. Alpert, "Pair of mythical aso," in Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art, ed. Reimar Schefold in collaboration with Steven Alpert (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013), 130.