Excerpted from Herina, Rens, and Harmen C. Veldhuisen. Fabric of Enchantment: Batik from the North Coast of Java....
Excerpted from Herina, Rens, and Harmen C. Veldhuisen. Fabric of Enchantment: Batik from the North Coast of Java. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York: Weatherhill, Inc., 1996, Catalogue no. 17.
Large egrets perched among the branches of the tree of life mirror each other across the badan. Some of the large leaves are depicted in a European, three-dimensional manner. Floral sprigs decorate the intervening spaces. The kepala shows a baroque treatment of the diamond outlines: “Europeanized,” lengthened, and each enclosing a water creature, which is, however, depicted in Pasisir style. The tumpal rows are filled with small trees on alternately cream and green backgrounds. The red base of the kepala is elaborately decorated. The badan shows red, blue, yellow, the famous Von Franquemont green, and black on a cream ground and has a refined application of gold dust. A European interpretation has been given to the traditional Pasisir lower border.
This batik is probably from the workshop of Carolina von Franquemont. The colors, perfection of work, richness of filler motifs, European interpretation of traditional Pasisir design with the tree of life and the European variation of the tumpal are characteristic of her batiks. The European influence is especially to be seen in the diverse sprigs and flowers and the semicurved leaves on the trees. Also the jaunty way of depicting the long-legged waders in diverse poses is neither traditionally Pasisir in style nor Peranakan.
This was surely a wedding gift for an affluent Indo-European or Peranakan bride. The symbolism is Asian, in spite of the European design influences. The egrets, according to Javanese symbolism, protect against misfortune, as they take wing at the least sign of danger. These birds are further associated with the phoenix, which symbolizes summer, harvest, and prosperity. The trees of life form the axis of the universe, which connects the world of humans with that of the ancestors, particularly during critical life passages.