Decorative Art in Indonesian Textiles

Decorative Art in Indonesian Textiles

Decorative Art in Indonesian Textiles. 1st Edition
Langewis, Laurens and Wagner, Frits
Amsterdam: Uitgeverij C.P.J. Van Der Peet, 1964

According to Michael Howard, “Southeast Asian textiles were virtually ignored by scholars during the late 1940s through the mid-1960s. About the only exception was the work of a few individuals in the Netherlands focusing primarily on textiles in the Dutch museum collections.” This Langewis and Wagner book was considered one of the two most important works produced by this group, although these books were considered to have broken little new ground beyond what had been done before World War II. (See Howard, 3).

This book’s discussion is based on the collection at the Royal Tropical Institute at Amsterdam on cloths dating from the beginning of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. The authors consider the most beautiful and most interesting textiles to be the ceremonial cloths. “This results from the fact that the sacral objectives aimed at make it mandatory to use those designs and patterns which developed from tradition. Such decorative ornamentations are often the purest in style. As the entire community where such textiles have a ceremonial function is interested in the ultimate result, the maker is compelled to give the very best of her craftsmanship.” (9)

The book includes 216 largely black and white plates classified into three main types: (1) reserve dyeing techniques (ikats – warp, weft and double, batiks – paste, bamboo stick and tjanting, plangi and tritik), (2) weaving techniques (supplementary weft, warp, kelim, sungkit, and pilih), and (3) other ornamenting techniques (embroidery, appliqué, painting, shell and bead work, and glue work). Each type is further divided into six subdivisions denoting general design motifs: human figure, animal figure, representations of vegetable objects, representations of other objects, purely geometric designs, other than purely geometric designs, and composite designs. A further subclassification is based on the way the motif has been placed in the total ornamentation. There is no attempt to discuss the functions of the textiles. Most examples are ikats.

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