The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in America is preparing to repatriate two bronze sculptures, notably the 11th-century ‘Golden Boy’ bronze sculpture, back to Thailand.

The repatriation is being coordinated between the Met and the Fine Arts Department of Thailand, as per the Ministry of Culture of Thailand. The formal handover process will take place through the Thai Consulate General in New York.

This repatriation stems from the Met’s investigation of a list of artefacts associated with Douglas Latchford, an art dealer prosecuted by the Southern District of New York’s Attorney’s Office for alleged antiquities trafficking in 2019. The investigation has unveiled that the smuggled artefacts include the Standing Shiva sculpture with origins in Thailand, notably known as the ‘Golden Boy.’

The Standing Shiva, also recognised as the “Golden Boy” for its golden fire gilding, stands 129 centimetres. Photo/

Found half a century ago at a countryside in Buriram Province in northeastern Thailand, the Golden Boy sculpture had traversed various private collections before finding its way to the Met in 1988. It stands at 129 centimetres (approximately the size of an average 5-year-old child), showcasing distinctive bronze and fire gilding.

Additionally, artefacts linked to antiquities trafficker Doris Wiener were identified, according to Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, resulting in legal actions initiated by the New York District Attorney’s Office in 2021. Among these artefacts is the Kneeling Female sculpture, set to return to Thailand alongside the Golden Boy bronze sculpture.

The Kneeling Female sculpture (11th century), kneeling with raised hands, is believed to be a high-ranking figure in the royal court. Photo/
The bronze sculpture, adorned with intricate costume and ornament details, serves as a testament to the excellence of fine metal art a millennium ago in present-day northeastern Thailand. Photo/

The Kneeling Female sculpture (11th century), measuring 43 centimetres, is in a kneeling posture with her left leg positioned beneath her while her right knee is raised. With hands raised in a gesture of praying, she dons a pleated sarong fastened by a sash adorned with jewelled pendants. The left hem of her attire is folded, creating a frontal panel that drapes between her legs, culminating in a distinctive “fishtail” silhouette reminiscent of earlier Khmer styles. Complementing her ensemble are ornate armlets, bracelets, anklets, and a necklace.

As per information from the Fine Arts Department, this sculpture of the Kneeling Female is posited to represent a high-ranking woman engaged in an act of adoration.

Both sculptures, the Golden Boy and the Kneeling Female bronze sculptures, serve as vital evidence indicating that the northeastern region of Thailand played a significant role in producing high-quality metal artworks during that period.

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Culture Minister Sermsak Pongpanit highlighted the repatriation of antiquities to Thailand, confirming their unlawful acquisition by previous owners. This emphasizes the Met’s commitment to ethical principles and the lawful ownership of artefacts. It also underscores the positive relationship between the Ministry of Culture, represented by the Department of Fine Arts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, fostering academic knowledge exchange and collaborative exhibitions of antiquities.

A close-up examination of the Standing Shiva sculpture reveals intricate facial details. Photo/

“On behalf of the Ministry of Culture, Thailand, I express admiration and gratitude to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the return of these antiquities to Thailand,” stated Culture Minister Sermsak Pongpanit in a media release by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand.

In the last three years, Thai people have witnessed the repatriation of numerous antiquities, including 10th-century ancient lintels from Prasat Nong Hong and Prasat Khao Lon, returning to Thailand.

While the Golden Boy and the Kneeling Female sculptures are heading from the Met to the Fine Arts Department of Thailand, Thai authorities are now collaborating with their American counterparts, particularly Homeland Security, to reclaim the Si Thep Sun God sculpture from the USA.