Java, Solo / Lasem / Pekalongan, 1950s
A fine waistcloth (kain panjang) hand-drawn separately in Solo, Lasem, and Pekalongan to create a beautiful design that blends their 3 distinct styles. The sparkling blue leaves, petals and birds drawn and dyed in Pekalongan are filled with fine, feathery patterns, enhancing the richness of the design; the vivid red leaves and flower centres drawn and dyed in Lasem have bold, dramatic white designs; and the warm, golden-brown soga background drawn in Solo has soft cream dots (cocohan) that represent rice seedlings, thus making the whole design a metaphor for padi. The flower centers, stems and long red leaves drawn in Lasem are detailed with. The 3 different styles create a graduated contrast of soft brown ground overlaid with fresh crisp blue-and-white detail and intense, dramatic red highlights – a uniquely luxurious, yet refined, effect.
The design is also a pagi-sore (morning-evening) one, i.e. bisected along a diagonal in the center, such that each half has a different pattern. In this case the differences are subtle: one half, which carries the maker's signature (images C6-7), has bouquets of a round magnolia flower (cempaka mulya) motif, broad leaves and butterflies. The other side (image C3) has has long narrow red leaves and peacocks. The piece is signed in the corner by the maker: “Nj. Sie Djien Soen, Sala”.
Context: Tiga negeri batik evolved from dua negeri (2 states) batik, which often organized a more simple division of styles between 2 parts of the design. Whereas dua negeri could be copied in one workshop, it was extremely difficult to simulate the expertise required for 3 different styles. This tiga negeri batik was commissioned by Sie Djien Soen in Solo, and sent for waxing and dyeing of the principal designs to Pekalongan for the blue portions of the design, and to Lasem for the red portions. When it returned to Solo, the background was completed in traditional central Javanese motifs and colors. The batikers in central Java had considerable freedom with the background and final design of the textile; the lovely cocohan drawn in Solo on this batik is now a lost technique. The Tjoa family were Peranakan Chinese batik entrepreneurs in Solo, and one of the foremost tiga negeri batik-makers. Tjoa Siang Gwan's grandfather, Tjoa Giok Tjiam, began his batik workshop in 1910.
The intention of the genre was to combine the best of the different regional styles of batik. Tiga negeri batik was the most expensive batik of its time: whilst the entrepreneurs may have saved costs by getting the background made in central Java, where batik labor was cheaper, the coordination and transport required also multiplied costs. As a luxury item that declared one’s status, tiga negeri batik was worn by wealthy Peranakans who wished to show their affiliations with traditional Javanese culture, and was also favored as informal private wear in the central Javanese courts. Its cosmopolitanism had the inadvertent effect of making the batik styles of one region familiar in another, leading to the greater sharing of motifs.
Condition: The textile is in excellent condition with no holes or tears. The red is dark and vivid, the blue fresh and glowing, and the soga brown is rich and unfaded. The cotton is of the highest grade, fine, smooth, thick and waxy, and quite crisp and cool to the touch.
248 cm x 106 cm.