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Explore the Museum’s collection of batik textiles from Java, the most populous island in the archipelago nation of Indonesia. Though practiced around the world, batik originated in Indonesia, and the artisans of Java are renowned for having mastered and refined the technique. The textiles in this exhibition include pieces made for royal and aristocratic clientele, ceremonial use, and everyday fabrics worn by men and women. These textiles, from the mid-19th century through the late 20th century, originate from the most significant centers of Javanese batik production, including the old royal courts of Yogyakarta and Surakarta in central Java and Pekalongan on the island’s north coast. The Museum’s collection ranges from the first batik textile acquired in 1922 to a selection acquired in 2018.

Javanese Batik Textiles is curated by Philip Hu, curator of Asian art.

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Saint Louis Art Museum, 2020

Introduction

Batik, from the Javanese words amba or bat (to write or to draw) and tik or titik (dots), refers to the technically and artistically demanding tradition of wax-resist dyeing as well as the cloth made using this technique. The batiks presented here feature finely spun, tightly woven cotton from the Netherlands or silk imported from China. The tool for applying wax is known as a canting, which traditionally consists of a copper wax container with a small pipe spout and a bamboo handle. The waxed fabric is dipped in a dye bath to add color, and the areas covered by wax resist the dye. The cloth is then washed with boiling water to melt and remove the wax. This meticulous, painstaking process is repeated numerous times with different dyes until the desired patterns and colors are achieved. Earlier examples of batik were made with natural dyes only. Later textiles were made in combination, or exclusively, with synthetic dyes.

Watch the video below to learn more about how batik is made.

Batik of Java: A Centuries Old Tradition; Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture

This online exhibition features 20 hand-drawn examples of batik tulis from the Museum’s collection. Many significant centers of Javanese batik production are represented, notably the two royal courts of Yogyakarta and Surakarta in central Java as well as Pekalongan on the island’s north coast.

Explore all the objects in the exhibition in the related content section below.

 

Photograph of Hamengkoe Boewono VII, Sultan of Yogyakarta, in Court Dress

Kassian Céphas, Javanese, 1845–1912; Hamengkoe Boewono VII, Sultan of Yogyakarta, in Court Dress, c.1885; albumen print; image courtesy of Leiden University Libraries, the Netherlands

Photograph of Javanese Woman in Court Clothes Belonging to the Family of Hamengkoe Boewono VII, Sultan of Yogyakarta , c.1885

Kassian Céphas, Javanese, 1845–1912; Javanese Woman in Court Clothes Belonging to the Family of Hamengkoe Boewono VII, Sultan of Yogyakarta, c.1885; albumen print; image courtesy of Leiden University Libraries, the Netherlands

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