Tuesday, 15 November 2016

c. 1900 Peranakan Chinese batik sarong

Indonesia, Java, Lasem, c. 1900
Commercial cotton, natural dyes, hand-drawn (tulis) batik

A batik sarong hand-drawn in Lasem on the north coast of Java, of the class of pattern known by its colors as bang-biru, i.e. red-&-blue. The main body of the sarong has scattered red and blue flowering sprigs and butterflies against an ivory ground. Of special charm are the winding sprays of flowers laid loosely against the red borders, that have a different closely detailed vine at top and bottom.

The contrasting rich red head panel (kepala) has two large birds on either side of a nest with a chick inside it, suggesting that the sarong may have been made for a young mother, or for a bride in the hope that she will soon be a mother. 

Context: The rich red of Lasem batik was emulated in other batik centres, but never quite equalled (and a closely guarded secret). The premium set on color is shown in the Lasem classification of batiks by their color combinations, not by motifs: bang-bangan (red /cream); bang-biru (red /cream/ blue); bang-biru-ijo (red /cream /blue /green). Lasem batiks are often designed with the colors as the primary elements.

The sarong is in very good condition, it has two small holes (5-6 mm), two smaller waxy stains and a few light marks (see images). The colors are both beautifully intense and vivid, and the cotton is of high quality, densely woven, thick, and with a stiff handle.

Length: 107 cm. Width: 102.5 cm (unopened).

Peranakan Chinese Batik Sarong, Pekalongan

Indonesia, Java, Pekalongan, c. 1950
Commercial cotton and dyes, hand-drawn (tulis) batik

A Peranakan Chinese sarong hand-drawn with the quintessential Pekalongan design of a detailed flower bouquet. Executed in only two shades of blue, the main body has dark flowers on a light blue body, and the head panel reverses the dark/ light figure/ ground. The flowers are shaded with different densities of white dotted lines to create the impression of many more shades in a 3-dimensional effect for which this style of batik is renowned. Particularly noteworthy is the variation with which the bouquet is repeated four times across the piece, unlike later mechanically repeated renditions of this design. Feathery ferns and curving slender leaves give movement and lightness to the picture, as do the butterfly and bird (both the same size!) hovering above. a flower garland forms borders throughout.

Context: Batik made only in blue and white were a type called kelengan, worn during mourning by Peranakan Chinese, but also traditional in Java and Sumatra.

The piece is in very good condition, with two very light age lines, and otherwise no stains, holes tears. The blues are vibrant, fresh, and unfaded.

Length: 105 cm. Width: 96 cm (unopened).

Javanese batik hipcloth (Kain Lepas)

Indonesia, Java, Banyumas, 1930 - 1950
Commercial cotton, natural dyes, hand-drawn (tulis) batik 

The design has the unstudied grace of one of the oldest batik patterns called kawung, here drawn in large ovals in fresh, light mangosteen red, brown and cream, with a dark blue shading around the short edges that creates a 3-dimensional effect. a flowering vine in the signature Banyumas wine-red provides an elegant accent along the end and bottom edge that would be shown when the batik was worn.

Excellent condition: no stains, holes or tears. Smooth, high grade cotton, grown crisp with age.

Length: 106 cm. Width: 253 cm.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Sumba Ikat Men’s Mantle with Red Dye (Hinggi Kombu)

Indonesia, East Sumba, Rende, before 1970
Handspun cotton, natural dyes, warp ikat, surface painting, twining

A gorgeous men’s mantle (hinggi) from Rende in east Sumba, woven with a rich variety of creatures in red, blue and yellow-brown warp ikat. The textile is made from 2 long mirroring panels joined together along the selvedge. Its motifs are arranged in 4 bands, also mirrored on either side of the central section of large flowers. The main motifs are similarly designed, creating repetition and variation: the 1st band has horses, the 2nd chickens, the 3rd deer, and the 4th another style of chickens. Filling the picture are smaller creatures and motifs in solid blue or red, whose darker tones give them the appearance of being recessed. The artistry of the weaver is displayed by the perfect alignment of 2 halves of small geometric motifs joined at the seam.

The central section presents a stately, grand treatment of the patola motif, animated by small blue crayfish. In the last contrasting red band, the chickens’ combs and feet have been painted in yellow. The textile is finished with the characteristic band called a kabakil: a border of weft-wise rib woven on a special small loom, using the warps of the ikat as the wefts of the kabakil. Warps in red, blue, and white were used to create a nicely textured border with stripes and dots, and the piece was then twined into the base of the cloth. Of particular note is the high quality of the ikat tying, which is unusually sharply defined for Sumbanese ikat. The carefully twisted floppy fringes have also been ikatted.

Context: Textiles from east Sumba have traditionally been major status markers for the noble caste throughout the island, who at one time had the sole right to wear decorated textiles. Their exchange substantiates alliances between clans, and is necessary to the rituals of the local animist belief system (Marapu). Large quantities are required as prestige clothing and gifts on ceremonial and ritual occasions—a high ranking Sumbanese may be wrapped and buried in over 100 hinggi, that will protect the soul from malevolent forces, and identify the deceased (by motifs, colors, and quality) to ancestors in the next world (Jill Forshee, “Unfolding Passages”, Decorative Arts of Sumba, 33-39).

Cloth carries cosmological and social symbols, marking clan, gender, rank, and ancestral affiliation. Animals are both literally a part of great social ceremonies, and, as motifs on cloth, symbolize the wearer’s qualities. Horses symbolize courage in warfare, nobility, and wealth, and are often sacrificed at funerals of high-ranking persons to accompany them to the next world. Large deer, like horses, are referred to as belonging to the king—only the nobility could organize a deer hunt as part of the sacred rites of the dry season, and large upstanding headdresses resembling deer’s antlers were exclusive to royalty in Sumba. Sea worms mark the end of the wet season by coming ashore, heralding the start of the pasola horse joust festival; they are believed to represent the body of the Princess Nyale, daughter of the king of the Moon, who sacrificed herself to ensure the fertility of the soil in Sumba. (Djajasoebrata & Hanssen, Decorative Arts of Sumba, 55).

The mantle is in excellent condition, with no holes, stains or tears. The colors are all rich and fresh, with warm, lively tones. The handspun cotton is quite heavy and densely woven, with a grainy hand.

Length: 260 cm plus 10 cm fringes at each end. Width: 126 cm.

Borneo ceremonial carry-cloth (pua belantan)

Malaysia, Sarawak, Saribas region, 1950 or earlier
Cotton, silk, supplementary weft wrapping (sungkit)

A long solid red centrefield decorated at the ends in detailed silk sungkit, depicting two rows of finely worked spirits at one end, and one row at the other. Each set of spirit figures has a distinct design, and is framed by narrow bands of stars and triangles that make the cloth sparkle. The side stripes in red, white, yellow, black and red-brown add a lively effect. Finished with long, twisted fringes (some of the red fringes in the centre have been cut, as is customary).

Context: Pua belantan is a type of cloth made in the Saribas region with a specific required design format, motifs and colour that have been part of its ritual efficacy for a long time, and which this example follows closely. It is used ritually – to receive or carry trophy heads, to make offerings at shrines, and to carry a newborn child at his or her birth rites, especially for the first ritual bath.

Very fine cotton, densely woven, with a slightly stiff hand. The silk sungkit colours have lightened a little on the front side but are still clear. Some general wear at the ends, but overall very good.

Length: 169 cm including fringes. Width: 42 cm.

Balinese Silk Songket Hip Wrapper (Kamben)

Indonesia, Bali, Singaraja, 1900 -1920
Silk, silver-wrapped thread, supplementary weft weaving

An elegant rose silk women’s hip wrapper (kamben), woven in the principality of Singaraja in north Bali and decorated entirely in silver thread. The design is rhythmical and stately: paired foliated meanders extending the width of the textile hold a row of butterflies between them; mirroring birds, smaller than the butterflies, stand between the meanders. Lines of triangles combine to form rhombs at the seam joining the two panels along the selvedge. At each end, large elaborate tumpal (triangles) forma broad border.

Context: Songket, the supplementary weaving of silk, gold and silver thread in a pattern over the base cloth, is a distinctive and dramatic Balinese textile tradition closely associated with its old kingdoms and royal families. Dating back to the centralized kingdom of Gelgel in the 16th century, these textiles were intended for the grand gesture—public theatrical performances and ceremonial displays of wealth and status. Songket textiles were for centuries the prerogative and mark of distinction of the upper classes, and were woven by the women of the royal courts and upper castes—in the past, almost every member of a princely family know how to weave songket, but the tradition has now died out.

The textile is in very good condition other than a few small repairs, the most significant of which occur at one end (see images). The red has aged to an old rose, the silk is fine, densely woven, nubbly and slightly stiff, with a sandy hand. The supplementary silver thread is not as bright as it would have been, but still retains a glittering sparkle.

Length: 96 cm. Width: 155 cm.

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