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).

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