Flores is Indonesia's tenth largest island. Situated to the north of Sumba and east of Komodo, Flores was settled and named in the 16th century by the Portuguese.

 
 

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

An island of extraordinary beauty and cultural diversity, Flores' artistic attainments are represented here in 19th and early 20th-century masterworks of high aesthetic merit from the Ngada and Nage peoples of Central Flores and through the ikats of the highly accomplished weavers of the Southeastern Ende Regency.

 
 
 

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

In the lands of the Nage and Ngada warrior peoples, before their late colonial era conversion to Christianity or Islam, carvings of ancestor figures of clan founders (ana deo) were erected on posts, placed on the upper beams in important houses, and set into shrines, often accompanied outside by large effigies of horses with riders (jara heda). 

Tall, 'Y’ shaped forked posts, elegantly fashioned and decorated, were also erected in the center of villages connecting everyone to the cosmic tree and a triadic universe where humans fulfilled their role in a realm situated between heaven and earth.

Megalithic stone arrangements and the boldly carved thresholds of bhaga houses dedicated to founding ancestresses were arrayed to honor local knowledge and uphold tradition.

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

 
 
 

© John R. Maxwell

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

For the Ngada people, only the highest female nobility was permitted to possess a lawo butu, a special deep indigo dyed sarong commissioned by clan leaders. A lawo butu is only worn during momentous celebrations and ritual occasions. Within these brilliant creations, ikat imagery is overlain with depictions of boats, roosters, human figures, and sun-like disk symbols.

These compelling motifs are created from a combination of ancient and later European trade beads, nasa shells, and polished teardrop shaped dangles cut from mother of pearl. When an aristocrat dies, her lawo butu assumes an epithet and becomes an heirloom.

As on Sumba and Timor, alluring ornaments and noble gold crowns, as well as finely woven ikat textiles are produced in Flores. In their most magnificent iterations, the rust-colored cloth of the Lio, Ndona, and Ende weavers are among the most coveted ikat patterned textiles found on the island.

 
 
 

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

Superior artworks from Flores are situated in numerous museum collections including Yale University Art Gallery, Honolulu Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Dallas Museum of Art, Musée du Quai-Branly, and Musée Barbier-Mueller.

Scholarly commentary on the arts and cultural history of Flores can be found in the writings of Roy Hamilton, George Ellis, Gregory Forth, Susan Rodgers, Andrea Molnar, and Robyn Maxwell.

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

 
 

Woman’s Ceremonial Sarong | Lawo Buto
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Gold Ceremonial Head Ornament from Central Flores | Lado or Lado Wea
© Musée du Quai-Branly | France

Pair of Nage Ancestor Figures | Ana Deo
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art | New York, USA

Woman's Ceremonial Sarong | Lawo Buto
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ngada Female Protective Figure | Ana Deo
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

Nage Ritual Horse Serpent with Male and Female Riders | Ja Heda
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

Ngada Ancestor Figure | Ana Deo
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

Ikat Selendang | Lio
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Pair of Ngada Ancestor Figures | Ana Deo
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Mask
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

Pair of Ngada Ancestor Figure Posts | Ana Deo
© Musée du Quai-Branly | France

Lio Ancestor Figure
© Musée du Quai-Branly | France

Pair of Ancestor Figure Posts | Ana Deo
© Musée Barbier-Mueller | Switzerland