1927 –
art historian, museum director
East and Southeast Asia

Curriculum vitae

1927born in Naarden on May 22
1945-1953studied far eastern languages and Indonesian archaeology, Leiden University
1949-1951Ensign, Royal Netherlands Navy, KMRSD
1947-1955assistant curator, Museum of Asiatic Art, Amsterdam
1954-1955studied in Japan on ZWO Stipend
1955-1966curator, Museum of Asiatic Art, Amsterdam
1966PhD degree under the supervision of Th. P. Galestin, Leiden University
1966-1992curator of Asian Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
1975-1987director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
1987-1990guest curator National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1990-1996Bishop White Visiting Scholar, Royal Ontario Museum
1990-2010guest curator, New Church Foundation, Amsterdam

Special activities and positions

  • Correspondent of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Honorary degrees of Boston University, Northeastern University, and Simmons College in Boston
  • Commander in the Order of the Sacred Treasure in Japan
  • Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau
  • Teacher at Harvard University, at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, and at the University of Heidelberg, Germany


Fontein’s publications on China and Japan are not included.
1954  Oosterse schatten: 4000 jaar Aziatische kunst: 3 Juli-10 October 1954, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Amsterdam, 191 p.
1964  “Bosch and the Barabuḍur studies.” In: [P.H. Pott, e.a.], Hiraṇyagarbha: a series of articles on the archaeological work and studies of F.D.K. Bosch, composed by his friends, his pupils and his colleagues to which is added the address delivered by him at his retirement from the University of Leiden, publ. on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his doctorate on 14th July 1964, The Hague, pp. 64-70.
1966  The pilgrimage of Sudhana: a study of gandavyuha illustrations in China, Japan en Java, ‘s-Gravenhage: Mouton. – PhD thesis Leiden University.
1969  & Pratapaditya Pal, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: oriental art, Boston, 195 p.
1971  & R. Soekmono [and] Satyawati Suleiman, Ancient Indonesian art of the Central and Eastern Javanese periods, [New York]: Asia Society. – Exhibition catalogue Asia House Gallery, autumn 1971.
1972  Editor of: Djakarta Museum art treasures, [Djakarta: Indoneasian Tourist Board], 26 p.
–  “Hanging vessel, Eastern Java, ca. 13th century.” Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin 70 (issue 361): 94-95.
1973  “The abduction of Sītā: notes on a stone relief from eastern Java.” Boston Museum Bulletin 71,363: 21-35.
1977  Preface to: Joyce Paulso et al., From riverbanks and sacred places: ancient Indian terracottas, introductory remarks by Pramod Chandra and reprinted essay by Ananda K[entish] Coomaraswamy, [Boston]. – Catalogue of an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, August 23-December 31, 1977.
1979  “A rock sculpture of Maitreya in the Suru Valley, Ladakh.” Artibus Asiae 41: 5-12.
1980  “A Buddhist altarpiece from South India.” Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin 78: 4-
1981  “Notes on the Jātakas and Avadānas of Barabuḍur.” In: Luis O. Gómez and Hiram W. Woodward Jr. (eds), Barabuḍur: history and significance of a Buddhist monument, Berkeley, pp. 85-108.
1986  Review of: A. Snodgrass, The symbolism of the stūpa, Ithaca N.Y. 1985. The journal of Asian studies: review of Eastern and Southern Asia and the adjacent Pacific Islands 45,4: 812.
1989  The law of cause and effect in ancient Java, Amsterdam (VKNAW 140).
1990  The sculpture of Indonesia, with essays by R. Soekmono, Edi Sedyawati, Washington-New York. – Catalogue of exhibition in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1 July-4 Nov. 1990; Houston Museum of Fine Arts, 9 December 1990-17 March 1991; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 21 April-18 August 1991; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 28 September 1991-5 January 1992.
1992  Het goddelijk gezicht van Indonesië: meesterwerken der beeldhouwkunst 700-1600, met bijdragen van R. Soekmono, Edi Sedyawati, Zwolle: Waanders. – Verschenen ter gelegenheid van de tentoonstelling in de Nieuwe Kerk te Amsterdam, 6 februari tot en met 20 april 1992. Dutch revision of : The sculpture of Indonesia, Washington-New York 1990.
1993  Review of: Jan J. Boeles, The secret of Borobudur, Bangkok 1985. BTLV 149,1: 172-174.
1996  Et al., Boeddha’s van Siam: kunstschatten uit het koninkrijk Thailand, [Gent] : Snoeck-Ducaju en Zoon. – Tentoonstelling: Brussel, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis, 1996/10/11-1997/02/16
1997  “Preliminary notes on the narrative reliefs of Candi Brahmā and Candi Viṣṇu at Loro Jonggrang, Prambanan.” In: Natasha Eilenberg [e.a.] (eds), Living a life in accord with dhamma: papers in honor of professor Jean Boisselier on his eightieth birthday, Bangkok: Silpakorn University, pp. 191-204.
“Notes on the Tshechu festival in Paro and Thimphu, Bhutan.” In: Dick van der Meij (ed.), India and beyond: aspects of literature, meaning, ritual and thought: essays in honour of Frits Staal, London-New York: Kegan Paul International; Leiden-Amsterdam: IIAS, pp. 148-161.
2000  “Introduction.” In: Marijke Klokke (ed.), Narrative sculpture and literary traditions in South and Southeast Asia, Leiden, pp. vii-xiv.
“Sculpture, text and tradition at Borobudur: a reconsideration.” In: Marijke Klokke (ed.), Narrative sculpture and literary traditions in South and Southeast Asia, Leiden, pp. 1-18.
“The lingering legacy of Majapahit.” Arts of Asia 30,6: 55-59.
2001  “The śarīra of Borobudur.” In: Marijke J. Klokke and Karel R. van Kooij (eds), Fruits of inspiration: studies in honour of prof. J.G. de Casparis, retired Professor of the early history and archeology of South and Southeast Asia at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands on the occasion of his 85th birthda , Groningen 2001 (Gonda Indological Studies 11), pp. 83-92.
Et al., “Majapahit: the Golden Age of Indonesia, late 13th-early 16th century.” Arts of Asia 30,6. Publ. on the occasion of the exhibition in Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam, 26 nov. 2000-25 mei 2001.
2007  The art of Southeast Asia: the collection of the Museum Rietberg Zürich, Zürich: Museum Rietberg, 154 p
“Baron von der Heydt and his collection of Southeast Asian Art.” Orientations 38,2: 117-121.
2008  “De verdwenen beeldjes van Prambanan.” Aziatische Kunst 38,4 ( Parels in een baaierd van lacunes: feestbundel voor Pauline Scheurleer): 48-54.
2010  “The path to enlightenment.” In: Miksic, John N., et al., Borobudur: majestic, mysterious, magnificent, Prambanan & Ratu Boko, pp. 109-140.
2012  Entering the Dharmadhātu: a study of the Gandavyūha reliefs of Borobudur, Leiden [etc.] : Brill (Studies in Asian art and archaeology 26), xiii, 257 p.
2013  “Borobudur: a monument of Avataṃsaka Buddhism.” In: M.J. Klokke and V.M.Y. Degroot (eds), Materializing Southeast Asia’s past: selected papers of the 12th international conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, vol. 2, Singapore: NUS, pp. 3-9.