Spottiswoode Gallery

Java | Mid 20th C Hand-Drawn Batik Head Cloth (<i>Iket Kepala</i>)

Java | Mid 20th C Hand-Drawn Batik Head Cloth (Iket Kepala)

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Directory: Vintage Arts: Regional Art: Asian: Southeast Asian: Textiles: Pre 1970: Item # 1410099
Spottiswoode Gallery
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Indonesia Java, Banyumas, mid 20th century

Commercial cotton and dyes, hand-drawn batik (tulis)

A dramatic ceremonial square that contrasts the cherry red square diamond (tengahan) reserved in the center with a surrounding hand-drawn design of diagonal bands alternating between rows of parang klitik (small broken knife), and an organic flow of leaves and butterflies. Overlaying the diagonal bands are ground plants with large red flowers. The geometric format is contrasted with the graceful curving lines of all the motifs.

The colours are characteristic of Banyumas batik: cream, deep red-brown and indigo blue. Of special note is an unusual variation in the red colour tone, which gives a burnished effect, or an impression of dappled light that is cherished in batik. An interesting accent is a single butterfly with persimmon orange wings, among other butterflies that are half concealed and only emerge gradually.

The central red diamond is edged with a row of diagonally angled “flames” (cimukirran), echoed in the outer border of dotted bars that enclose the design on all sides. These borders give the design a formal character, and were traditionally believed to protect the centerfield like a fence around a garden. Fine hand-rolled and -stitched hems on two sides, selvedge on the other two edges.

Context: This textile belongs to a very special and ancient type known as kain kembangan (flowered cloths), believed to be as old as the preparation and colouring of bark cloth. Kain kembangan have a large, undecorated geometric area in the center that makes an extremely forceful and dramatic effect by contrast with the regular, consistently repeating designs of the surrounding batik, which are calm in nature (Veldhuisen-Djajasoebrata, Weavings of Power and Might, 1988, 43-45).

Excellent condition, except for two very minor tears along the edge (the larger is 1.2 cm, see image 6). The colours are vivid, deep and unfaded, the cotton is of high quality, smooth, and cool to the touch. This displays beautifully on a wall.

103 x 104 cm.