Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Architectural Ornament (Singa)

late 19th–early 20th century
Indonesia, Sumatra
Toba Batak people
Wood, paint
H. 55 in. (139.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 1988
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 355
The central image in Toba Batak art is the singa, a supernatural creature whose likeness protects individuals, homes, and communities from malevolent supernatural forces. The name singa derives from the Sanskrit word meaning lion. However, the Toba Batak singa is a fantastic composite that combines features of several different species. Among the defining features of the singa are the three stylized, backward-curving horns that crown the head. Most also have large round eyes, a human-like nose, and a horse-like muzzle with a long protruding tongue that is intended to intimidate supernatural enemies. The singa image occurs on items ranging from finger rings to monumental stone sarcophagi. Some of the most prominent appear on the facades of Toba Batak houses and rice granaries. This large singa head is a facade ornament.
[Mark Felix, Brussels, Belgium, until 1976]; Fred and Rita Richman, New York, 1976–1988

Barbier, Jean-Paul. En Pays Toba: les lambeaux de la tradition. Geneva: Musée Barbier-Mueller, 1982.

Capistrano-Baker, Florina H. Art of Island Southeast Asia: The Fred and Rita Richman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994, no. 15, pp. 38-39, 125.

Related Objects

Ritual Seat for a Noble (Osa' osa)

Date: 19th century Medium: Stone Accession: 1988.125.1 On view in:Gallery 355

Puppet Head (Si Gale-gale)

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, copper alloy, lead alloy, water buffalo horn, paint Accession: 1987.453.6 On view in:Gallery 355

Finial from a Ritual Staff (Tungkot Malehat)

Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Copper alloy, resin Accession: 1988.143.141 On view in:Gallery 355

Container for Magical Substances (Perminangken [?])

Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, Chinese trade ceramic Accession: 1988.124.2a, b On view in:Gallery 355

Architectural Ornament (Singa)

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1988.143.170 On view in:Gallery 355