Visiting Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall Arts of the Kingdom
Visiting Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall Arts of the KingdomInformation & Booking
This tour belongs to the program “Bangkok Best Museums Tours” by Rock Around Asia
Visiting Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall Museum aims to discover the most amazing Rattanakosin Thai Fine Handicrafts Collection, displayed in a historical western style monument commissioned by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) that hosted rebels Headquarter during the 1932 revolution that ended absolute Monarchy in Thailand. Such major traditional art museum must be visited to discover unique traditional Thai techniques (Gold & Silver Nielloware, Silver & Gold Khram Damascene Inlay, Gold & Silverware, Silver & Gold Khram Damascene Inlay, wood carving, Beetle Wing Decoration, Embroidery and Weaving) provided by the best craftsmen in Thailand and supported since decade par Queen Sirikit herself through her Support Foundation.
The Splendor of Rattanakosin Arts hosted in one major Thai Monument
The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is a former reception hall within Dusit Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. It now serves as a museum and is from time to time employed for certain state occasions. One year after the completion of the Amphorn Satharn Villa within the Dusit Palace in 1906, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) commissioned the construction of a reception hall to replace the one built during the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV.). King Chulalongkorn died in 1910 and the building was finally completed in 1915. In front of the Hall is the Royal Plaza with the equestrian statue of Rama V. Ananta Samakhom was used as the headquarters of the People’s Party during the four days of the 1932 Revolution (June 24–27), which transformed the country’s political system from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one.
The building in Italian Renaissance and Neo Classic style was commissioned to the architects Mario Tamagno and Annibale Rigotti. Marble from Carrara, Italy, and other foreign materials were used. Italian sculptor Vittorio Novi, who would later also work on the Mahadthai udthit Bridge was employed with his nephew Rudolfo Nolli. The Throne Hall is a two storey construction with a large dome (49.5 m high) in the centre, surrounded by six smaller domes. The domes and walls are covered with paintings by Professor Galileo Chini and Carlo Riguli depicting the history of the Chakri Dynasty, from the first to the sixth reign.
Fresco drawings in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall were accomplished by Galileo Chini and Carlo Riguli, who were the royal artists serving King Rama V. There are paintings on every ceiling and wall of the dome depicting the history of the Chakri Dynasty. The northern dome exhibits the picture of King Rama I leading his armies back to Thailand after defeating the Khmer and later crowned as the first king of the Chakri dynasty. The eastern dome shows the contribution of King Rama II and King Rama III to arts by ordering constructions of the royal temples. The southern dome displays King Rama V’s abolition of slavery. Pictures of King Rama IV (King Mongkut) surrounded by priests of various faiths are shown on the western dome, depicting the king’s advocacy of all religions. Mural paintings in the middle hall narrate the royal duties of King Rama V and King Rama VI. Other parts of the hall are decorated with King Rama V’s and King Rama VI’s monograms, including a variety of royal emblems such as the Garuda emblem. On the balcony of the middle hall, art nouveau paintings are decorated on the walls with pictures of European women holding flower garlands.
- Finest Thai Handicraft
- 1932 Thai Revolution Headquarter
Program in details
The all exhibition place (ground floor and first floor) show magnificent works of art in the pure Thai tradition, supported by Queen Sirikit of Thailand. All masterpieces on display are mainly gifts to Royal Family and made from different traditional art techniques, Thai Legacy, detailed below.
Arts of The Kingdom
Special occasions have inspired artists and their apprentices to work together to produce masterpieces which are now part of an impressive national heritage. Since the Ayudhaya era and continuing to the present, it has been a traditional practice to create magnificent works of art for these occasions, using techniques such as silver & gold khram damascene inlay, gold & silver nielloware and intricate wood carvings. This has also helped to restore some nearly forgotten artistic skills. New techniques have been developed to improve traditional crafts, such as Yan Lipao and other types of basketry, and beetle wing collage decorations. Modern techniques and more intricate weaving skills have also been introduced to enhance traditional folk arts such the process of seri-culture, from mulberry cultivation, silk reeling, and weaving various silk patterns such as Mudmee, Chok, Khid, Praewa and Squirrel Tail Silk, as well as the exquisite handicrafts from the hands of hill tribes namely: Hmong, Mien, Akha, Lahu, Lisu and Karen.
A sense of community among the artisans has helped to produce many new works of art, with a team effort responsible for unique pieces such as Busabok Mala (a Royal Throne crafted in gold and shimmering with diamonds embellished designs), combining the skills of the departments of goldsmiths, khram and gold nielloware, while carpenters used their skills to weave silver and gold stripes for the floor covering. Carvers crafted the Busabok platform which was then decorated with luminous beetle wings collage and exotically woven with Yan Lipao Basketry.
Entrance corridor (Second Floor)
- Mural Beetle Wings pieces on display
Hall 1 (Second Floor)
- Gold & Silver Nielloware, Gold Khram Damascene Inlay & Wooden Carving
- 103- King Throne
- 104- Sappagab Phragajatarn
- 105- Sivakakarn on covered palanquin
- 106- Model of Sri Prapasorochai Royal Barge
- 109- Busabok Mala
- 110- Massive Ramakien Scene
- 111- Triple-spired Busabok Throne
- 112- “Sangthong & Himmaranta Forest” scene massive wooden carving
- 113- Busabok Chaturamook Bhiman Throne
Hall 2 (Second Floor)
- Embroidery, Gold & Silver Nielloware, Gold Khram Damascene Inlay 7 Wooden Carving
- 114- Massive Embroidered screen on the theme of Inao
- 115- Suphannabhetra
- 116- Phra Mahajanaka Golden Junk
- 117- Footprints of Lord Buddha in Gold Nielloware
- 118- Khram Phra Dharma Chakra Wheel of Law
- 119- Footprints of Lord Buddha
- 120- A wood carved Screen with the legend of “Bejaratana”
- 121- Royal Banquet Table
- 122- Embroidered “Himmavan Forest”
- 123- Gold Damascene Bhudthan Throne
- 124- Gold Nielloware Bhudthan Throne
- Table set (Gold & Silverware, Gold & Silver Nielloware)
- Yan Lipao Basketry
- Jewelry (Gold & Silverware)
Queen Sirikit, guardian and artistic beacon of light of the Rattanakosin Period
On July 21, 1976, the Support Foundation of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit was officially established to promote local arts and crafts which would assist in supplementing income for the underprivileged families. On regular regional visits, Queen Sirikit would meet with villagers to informally chat and listen to their opinions and problems, while inspecting their latest handiworks and meet with new talents, who would later be sent to train in Bangkok. With encouragement, the villagers were excited and willing to cultivate higher skills in handling more intricate designs, from weaving to Yan Lipao Basketry and complicated wooden carvings.
In 1979, the Support Training Center at Chitralada Villa of Dusit Palace in Bangkok was founded. Leading artisans in traditional fields further train skill in various traditional arts and crafts to selected students from villages, who would later return to impart their knowledge to their own communities.
Queen Sirikit also encouraged restoration and maintenance of traditional arts in each region, especially those that are regarded as national heritage. Therefore, the Support Training Center also acts as the preservation center of ancient arts which were in danger of extinction.
After a decade, the Support Training Center on the grounds of Chitralada Villa of Dusit Palace celebrated with a grand exhibition followed by a series of exhibitions in later years.
The works of the Support Foundation continue to be more outstanding at each exhibition. They are exquisite national heritage works of art and pride of the nation which are now enjoying worldwide acclaim.
For generations, artisans, teachers and trainees continue to produce masterpieces to preserve and develop Arts of the Kingdom to be the highest level of magnificence according to the wishes of Queen Sirikit, the inspired guardian and artistic beacon of light of the Rattanakosin Period.
Gold & Silver Nielloware (Krueng Thom)
Niellowares are the symbol of Nakhon Si Thammarat. Valued and well known since the old days, the nielloware handicraft has been passed down from generation to generation in Nakhon Si Thammarat. In the past, nielloware was offered to kings as royal tribute. There are two types of nielloware. One with a black surface with gold designs and one with a black surface with silver designs. The Nakhon Si Thammarat College of Arts and Handicrafts teaches this craft. The beautiful effect of Nakhon nielloware stems from the skills of the smiths and the quality of the black compound holding the gold or silver. Two kinds of Nakhon nielloware are produced. The black kind normally bears silver designs and gold kind is covered with gold designs. The nielloware smith will apply real gold, mixed with mercury on a piece of silver that has a design on it. Technically, the piece of gold/silver is first beaten flat and molded into the desired shape. Carvings are then deeply etched onto the surface, corroding the metal face into intricate designs. Alternatively, designs can be drawn on the surface, then the piece is immersed in acid and the pattern is corroded accordingly. Next, black niello paint, which is obtained from melting different metals together, fills up the designs until the surface is even, and is then filed to smoothness. Lastly, this raw artwork is placed over fire so that the mercury evaporates, leaving the gold clinging firmly to the silver. Later, the finished product is polished until it shines. Nakhon nielloware has its own identity and is difficult to copy. All items are made by highly-skilled craftsmen who produce a very fine finish. With the number of nielloware workers decreasing due to the difficulty in training, nielloware producers in Nakhon Si Thammarat are attempting to promote this fine skill by modifying nielloware products to make them useful in everyday life. Such products make perfect gifts and are useful as personal accessories. They also demonstrate the cultural heritage handed down by past generations. Nielloware of this province is popular for its durability and its intricate design. The finished product is a bright and shiny black object with beautiful patterns. Items include rings, necklaces, bracelets, bowls, pedestals, and trays. The best shopping area is in the area of Tha Chang Road, behind Sanam Na Mueang in the area of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan, Nakhon Si Thammarat Municipality, and also at the Tha Wang market.
Silver & Gold Khram Damascene Inlay
Khram is the technique of inlaying fine silver and gold threads, beating them into designs on an iron surface which is already roughened in a criss-cross pattern known as the “crossed iron rails” process by a very sharp chisel. When the silver and gold threads are hammered deep into the crossed iron rail grooves, the tiny pointed ends or iron thorns act as prongs to secure the threads in place.
However, the roughened surface technique cannot be prepared in advance to save time as the silver and gold threads will not remain secured in place. The procedure has to be carried simultaneously. The slow and intricate Khram technique has to be followed step by step, inch by inch. The artist must therefore take great care not to perspire freely or the saline droplets could produce a negative reaction and the threads will not adhere.
Quite recently, Khram works almost faced total extinction in Thailand. It was only in 1978 when Master Craftsman Saman Chaikusumarn, who learned this intricate technique from his father, started to share his knowledge with Princess Sirindhorn, that Queen Sirikit of Thailand realized the immense value of this dying art and immediately instructed preservation and development procedures to retain this precious traditional art at the Support Foundation Training Center of Chitralada Villa.
Gold & Silverware
The art of crafting silver and gold does not depend on skill alone. First, the silver and goldsmiths must select suitable pieces of metal which can be evenly hammered and easily molded into the desired shapes. The artist must be creative in etching the delicate designs that emerge as glowing pieces of art and ornamental motifs to complement and decorate larger gold and silver works.
Yan Lipao Basketry
Yan Lipao Basketry is a famous product in Nakhon over 100 years. Yan Lipao is a vine that grows in damp places among other plants in the forests of Nakhon Si Thammarat (South of Thailand). This vine is very tough and durable and locals have found a way to make good use of it by making household goods such as handbags, tobacco boxes and tea accessories from it. Some pieces are encased in silver or gold. Depending on the details of the design, it takes between ten days to a month to make an item. The major Yan Lipao production spots are Ban Mon, Tambon Tha Rua and Ban Na Khian, Tambon Na Khian (both in Amphoe Mueang), and Fort Vajiravudh. The stitching of Yan Lipao vines began in the early Rattanakosin era. Basketry appealed to the aristocrats, noblemen, and the elite in Bangkok. During the reign of King Chulalongkorn, courtiers favored the use of handbags and pedestal trays that were made from Yan Lipao. Later, metal pieces and other adornments like gold, nak (gold bronze), silver, and ivory were added to enhance its appeal. These age-old objects were once fashionable but their popularity gradually waned. The Yan Lipao know-how could have been lost had it not been for the sagacity and good artistic taste of the Queen. She considered it a cultural heritage that should by no means be forgotten. Plus she believed that the vintage attractiveness of its basketry would make a profitable supplementary occupation for the people in the areas where the vines grow in abundance. Of course, Yan Lipao weaving involves great effort. One has to go deep into the forest to look for vines not less than an arm’s length and not too young to dry in the shade. Furthermore, properly dried strings have to be trimmed or smoothed out before use. Despite these difficulties, the Queen was sure that the ingenuity which runs in the blood of the Thai people would see them through. Those few people who had knowledge about the art were rounded up to teach the skill to members of the support Foundation. A decade later, the almost lost art has been successfully revived. Yan Lipao basketry is popular both in the country and abroad. This is a handicraft that has become a stable source of income, bringing new life and upgrading the quality of life of a great number of Thai people.
Wood Carving is an ancient art dating from prehistoric times. Wooden items, with the natural beauty of grain and color, were fashioned into simple appliances and tools for daily use, as well as ornamentation for temples and other special buildings.
Teak is among the best wood for carving, especially golden teak which was once widely available in subtle colors and with varying surface patterns. Resilient but sturdy, it is easy to craft and decorate. It can withstand rain, heat and humidity, and is resistant to termites and fungus. Popular for use in temple construction, intricate teak architectural structures, objects and carvings are still found today.
Celebrated carvings regarded as one of the most spectacular works of art in the Rattanakosin Period are the temple doors of the Royal Viharn at wat Sudasanadebvarararn, which are now housed at the National Museum in Bangkok. Designed par King Rama II, these teak doors depict trees and graceful entwining climbing vines. The King himself directed the process and marked the occasion by making the first carvings on the doors.
The Carving Department at the Support Foundation Training Center of Chitralada Villa made detailed carvings on massive doors on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of Rama IX’s accession to the Throne. Another exceptional creation was the menu covers for the Royal Banquet in honor of the visiting Royal dignitaries on 2006. These covers, which were elegantly carved in an outstanding perforated design on the ivory wood, received royal recommendations.
Beetle Wing Decoration
It was common in some of the ancient refined cultures of Asia to attach beetlewing pieces as an adornment to paintings, textiles and jewelry. Different species of metallic wood-boring beetle wings were used depending on the region, but traditionally the most valued were those from beetles belonging to genus Sternocera. Their wings were valued for their beautiful and hardy metallic emerald iridescence. The shiny appearance of beetle wings is long-lasting. They are surprisingly durable if subject to normal non-abusive use.
In Thailand, beetle wings of wood–boring beetles Sternocera, like Sternocera aequisignata, were preferred to decorate clothing (shawls and Sabai cloth) and jewelry in former court circles. The beetles have a short life span of 3 to 4 weeks in their adult stage. To avoid killing the beetles, only those that die of natural causes are collected.
In 19th-century India exquisite masterpieces of embroidered textiles were produced using beetle wing pieces. These cloth items have survived the passage of time without losing their splendor. In some instances, the beetle wings will retain their natural sparkle, even though the cloth surrounding them may have decayed.
In Thailand, this ancient tradition has mostly died out. In Bangkok, rare pieces of crafts and jewelry made with beetle wing are displayed at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. Thanks to the encouragement and support of Queen Sirikit of Thailand, efforts are being made to preserve this traditional art at the Chitralada Center by supporting artisans who have kept the skill alive.
The unique iridescent green beetle wing decoration requires a long and delicate process. It demands extreme care and sensitive handling from the very first steps of choosing wings, separating colors, followed by careful preparation. The beetle wings must be from beetles that have died a natural death so that their wings retain the magnificent luminous emerald green color, beautifully graduating in tones. The preparation will help to retain the wings and other parts of the beetle from decay, allowing them to remain fresh and supple. The wings can be used on embroidery, woven with pliable Yan Lipao basketry, ornamenting carved wooden works, and also decorating silver pieces.
This dainty handiwork requires patience and high skills together with sharp eyesight to differentiate the colorful shades of silk threads. The embroidery is so delicate that it actually shines with shadows in the most artistic way. Queen Sirikit has encouraged embroidery work by many groups of villagers in several provinces together with the development of new designs at Chitralada Support Training Center.
The artisans first start with small patterns until they become more skilled. They eventually can make complex many layered patterns, using several shades of silk to give depth and realism to designs, such as village scenes, roosters, birds, places of interest, and scenes from classical literature such as Kinnaree or phra maha Janaka.
Thai Embroidery uses super fine silk threads which are closely stitched only a small bit of time. The embroiderers must take care to rest their eyes every few minutes in order to refresh their sight. A major work can take many months to complete, requiring at least four persons to stitch together on a large wooden frame. On completion, it becomes a magical piece of art. When viewed from a distance, the tones and shades take on different colors with every changing dimension according to the light. Seen up close, the embroidery reveals the most delicate and painstaking process, but so smooth that it even resembles a painting. This valuable work is the result of extreme patience and total concentration, coupled with high artistic skills and attest to the amazing ability of Thai embroiderers.
The Weaving Department of the Support Training Center of Chitralada Villa of Dusit palace is another group that has long been creating superbly handcrafted products since the establishment of the center. On Queen Sirikit’s instructions, a tent was erected beside the Office of Her Majesty the Queen’s Royal Secretariat, where beautiful pieces of fabric were being produced long before other handicraft departments were founded, and before the building housing the Support Training Center was constructed.
Weavers from the northeast who were proficient in mudmee dying and weaving techniques were brought in to teach the students, all hand-picked by Queen Sirikit from poor families or victims of disasters. They were trained in all aspects of sericulture, from mulberry tree cultivation, raising from worms, the reeling and preparing of silk threads and various weaving techniques such as Squirrel Tail Silk, Khid, Praewa, Luk Kaew and Chok.
Queen Sirikit also introduced antique fabrics in the Royal palace collection so the students could copy the colors and patterns of the artisans of old. As a result, the Support Foundation’s weaving department has been able to preserve traditional Thai textile craft, which will become the nation’s legacy into the future.
King Chulalongkorn (Rama V)
King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910) reign was characterized by the modernization of Siam, immense government and social reforms, and territorial cessions to the British and French. The King’s visionary abilities brought Thailand into the modern period. This exhibit tells the story of how labour figured in the main process of reform. It explains how King Chulalongkorn ended the system of “corvees” and slave labour. The Museum owns and display very rare original documents that relate to tne sale of slaves.
Originally, Ayutthaya King Ramathibodi II (1491-1529) established a system of “corvée” in 1518 after which the lives of Siamese commoners and slaves were closely regulated by the government. All Siamese common men were subject to the Siamese “corvée” system.
Chulalongkorn was best known for his abolition of Siamese slavery. He associated the abolition of slavery in the United States with the bloodshed of the American Civil War. Chulalongkorn, to prevent such a bloodbath in Siam, provided several steps towards the abolition of slavery, not an extreme turning point from servitude to total freedom. Those who found themselves unable to live on their own sold themselves into slavery by rich noblemen. Likewise, when a debt was defaulted, the borrower would become a slave of the lender. If the debt was redeemed, the slave regained freedom. However, those whose parents were household slaves were bound to be slaves forever because their redemption price was extremely high.
Because of economic conditions, people sold themselves into slavery in great numbers and in turn they produced a large number of household slaves. In 1867 they accounted for one-third of Siamese population. In 1874, Chulalongkorn enacted a law that lowered the redemption price of household slaves born in 1867 (his ascension year) and freed all of them when they had reached 21. The newly freed slaves would have time to settle themselves as farmers or merchants so they would not become unemployed. In 1905, the Slave Abolition Act ended Siamese slavery in all forms. The reverse of 100 baht notes in circulation since the 2005 centennial depict Chulalongkorn in navy uniform abolishing the slave tradition.
Queen Sirikit of Thailand
Sirikit, born Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara on 12 August 1932, is the queen consort of Bhumibol Adulyadej, King (Rama IX) of Thailand. She met Bhumibol in Paris, where her father was the Thai ambassador. They married in 1950, shortly before Bhumibol’s coronation. Sirikit was appointed Queen Regent in 1956. Sirikit produced one son and three daughters. As the consort of the king who is the world’s longest-reigning head of state, she is also the world’s longest-serving consort of a monarch. Sirikit suffered a stroke on 21 July 2012 and has since refrained from public appearances.
When the king undertook a period of service as a Buddhist monk in 1956 (as is customary for all Thai Buddhist males), Queen Sirikit became regent. She performed her duties so satisfactorily that she was made queen regent and given the style of ‘Somdet Phra Nang Chao Sirikit Phra Borommarachininat’ by her husband on his birthday, 5 December 1956. She then became the second Siamese queen regent. The first queen regent was Queen Saovabha Bongsri of Siam, who was regent when her husband King Chulalongkorn travelled to Europe, and later became Queen Sri Patcharindra, the queen mother.
Queen Sirikit’s birthday, as is the king’s, is a national holiday, and is also Mothers’ Day in Thailand. She is particularly revered in the more remote and traditional parts of the country, where the monarchy is regarded as semi-divine. Her work in promoting tolerance and understanding for the Muslim minorities in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat has made her especially popular amongst local Muslims.
Queen Sirikit is well known for her charitable work, where she is the honorary president of the Thai Red Cross, a post she has held since 1956. She gained new prominence in this role in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in southern Thailand in December 2004. She has also been active in relief work for the many refugees from Cambodia and Burma in Thailand.
Many things in Thailand have been named after the Queen:
- Queen Sirikit national institute of child health, Children hospital
- Queen Sirikit Medical Center building, Ramathibodi Hospital
- Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer, a new 10-storey hospital in Bangkok
- Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok
- Queen Sirikit Park in Bangkok
- Sirikit Dam on the Nan River, Uttaradit Province
- Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Chiang Mai Province
- Queen Sirikit Arboretum Garden, Pathum Thani Province
Used as the headquarters of the People’s Party during the four days of the 1932 Revolution (June 24–27), which transformed the country’s political system from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. The first National People’s Assembly convened on June 28, 1932 in this AS Throne Hall. After that, it was used as the Parliament House until 1974 when the new Parliament House was opened to the north. However, the old Parliament House is still used for the State Opening of Parliament marking the first assembly in consequence of a general election for the House of Representatives.
- 1st Exhibition – Perpetuation of National Handicrafts Heritage, 8-15 August, 1989 at River City Shopping Mall. A promotional display, demonstration and sale of Yan Lipao Basketry.
- 2nd Exhibition – The Joy of Ceramics, 30 April-2 May, 1990 at Santi Maitri Hall, Government House. A display and sale of ceramics.
- 3rd Exhibition – Mudmee Silk – The Rural Connection, 6-12 August, 1990 at Sahathai Smakhom Pavilion, the Grand palace. The foundation’s collection for over 20 years of Mudmee Silk, woven with 200 original patterns. Weaving demonstration and display of Mudmee Silk in daily use.
- 1st Exhibition – Arts of the Kingdom, 8-31 August, 1992 at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Dusit Palace in celebration of Queen Sirikit’s 5th Cycle Birthday Anniversary.
- 2nd Exhibition – Arts of the Kingdom, 12-22 December, 1996 at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Dusit Palace in celebration of King of Thailand’s 50th Year of Accession to the Throne.
- 3rd Exhibition – Arts of the Kingdom, 23 July- 8 August, 1998 at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Dusit Palace in celebration of King of Thailand 6th Cycle Birthday Anniversary in 1999.
- 4th Exhibition – Arts of the Kingdom, 3 July- 3 August, 1998 at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Dusit Palace in celebration of Queen Sirikit 6th Cycle Birthday Anniversary.
Bangkok Best Museums Tours Program
- History of Thailand Museums Tour in Bangkok (One Day Tour)
- Contemporary Thai Society Museums Tour in Bangkok (One Day Tour)
- Provided by Eric Monteil Photography © (Photos shot from Arts of the Kingdom National Heritage Book)
- Art of the Kingdom
- Yan Lipao Basketry & Nielloware Art (Kannikaswnk / Nakhon Si Thammarat TAT Office)