A Pekalongan Batik made in the Kudus Style
Oey Djien Nio (1924 - 1986),was a third generation batik-maker in Pekalongan. She signed her earlier works with her husband's name, Liem Siek Hien. Post 1965 she used her new Indonesian family name, Hendromartono, adopted by her husband (Peranakan citizens were advised by the government to adopt Indonesian names as a demonstration of their loyalty, post Independence. She combined this family name with the name people used to address her by, Jane -
Java, Pekalongan, c. 1950
Liem Siek Hien ( post 1965, Jane Hendromartono), 1924 - 1986
Skirt cloth kain panjang pagi-sore (detail)
Cotton, synthetic dyes; batik tulis
104.0 x 259.5.0 cm
This opulent batik was made by Liem Siek Hien in Pekalongan but in addition to her signature she has included the name of the town Kudus, which is further east along the coast from Pekalongan. While she lived and worked in Pekalongan, the batik was executed in the Kudus-style. The art work's colourful floral motifs along with a family of small exotic birds (Details 2,4 and 6), are set against - the most intricate backgrounds to be found on the entire north coast - (Inger McCabe Elliott. Batik- Fabled Cloth of Java, p.144). The three generations of this important family of Pekalongan batik makers were: Oey Soen Khing (Java,1861 - 1942), who was the mother-in-law of Mrs. Oey Kok Sing née Kho Tjing Nio ( Java, d. 1966), who was the mother of Oey Djien Nio [Liem Siek Hien and post 1965 Jane Hendromartono], (Java, 1924 - 1986).
This extremely beautiful art work has a complete terang bulan border in both halves. A section of the left side border can be seen above, in Detail 3. The borders are so saturated with very fine isen-isen motifs, they appear as if in a light haze or perhaps like the transparent veils shielding the Milky Way. The amazing number of minutely detailed isen-isen and tanahan motifs would indicate the wearer was from a wealthy background. This intricate work is a variation of the Kudus batiks made before the occupation of the Japanese, and is known as buketan Semarangan. These even more densely detailed works were produced by Peranakan owned workshops for Peranakan customers after Independence. The terang bulan border was a key characteristic of Djawa Hokokai batiks which were developed in response to the aesthetic preferences of Japanese clients during the 1943 - 1945 occupation of Java.
This is an art work I become absorbed in every time I remove it from the safety of its storage cabinet and unroll it across the work table. Its richness is adored by all and it is with astonishment they survey the intricate canting work. It is made from the finest cotton and now with age, it feels like sensuous silk. In the image above of the full work, it is easy to decipher the two halves of the work's pagi-sore structure. The key motif on the left side consists of various groupings of a family of birds which are balanced on the right side by the random placement of bouquets of heavenly pink blooms. Each of these key motifs are also interwoven into their respective terang bulan borders. Additionally, each half of the pagi-sore has motifs in common including blue/mauve chrysanthemums, blue/mauve and orange orchids/daffodils and floral sprigs in blue and pink. The motifs in common with each half contribute to the work's overall sense of balance and harmony. Both of the short ends have a kepala consisting of multi-coloured small triangles against a background of the brown shade covered in white dots. Both long sides are edged by a finely striped secret.
Other images of art work by Liem Siek Hien (Jane Hendromartono) can be found in the following publications:
Djoemena, Nian S. Batik dan Mitra (Batik and its Kind), Jakarta, Djambatan, 1990. page 20.
Knight-Achjadi, Judi & Damas, Asmoro. Butterflies and Phoenixes- Chinese Inspirations in Indonesian Textile Arts. Singapore, Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2006. page 160.
Kerlogue, Fiona. Batik- Design, Style & History. London, Thames & Hudson, 2004.
pages 68 & 69.
McCabe Elliott, Inger. Batik- Fabled Cloth of Java. Singapore, Periplus Editions, 2004.
pages 126, 127 & 148.
In addition to the four publications listed above:
Judi Achjadi & H. Santosa Doellah. The Glory of Batik- The Danar Hadi Collection. Solo,
PT. BATIK DANAR HADI, 2011.
I have an article which includes Liem Siek Hien, in the latest edition of: ASIAN TEXTILES- Magazine of the Oxford Asian Textile Group, Number 54, February 2013, pages 18 - 26 inclusive. This edition of Asian Textiles is available online in full colour in a pdf file to download, view and/or print. Access to the pdf file is either via http://www.oatg.org.uk/magazine.htm whilst it is the current issue or always via the back issues page http://www.oatg.org.uk/magazine-backissues.html by first clicking on the cover image thumbnail.