Pekalongan - Batik Belanda - Buketan Design Style

When the Dutch came to Indonesia, first as traders of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century and two centuries later as rulers, their presence rapidly became visible in new batik motifs and colours.  Floral decoration, for example, became very popular, and old motifs were mixed with new ones to create a new style of batik: batik Belanda, Dutch batik.

I have structured my analysis of this intriguing work into three sections:

(a) European and Indo-European Influences- what were the key influences of these batik entrepreneurs on Pekalongan batik design style from around 1840?

(b) Analysis of the Work- what are the European design influences adopted by its Peranakan Chinese makers, in this work and when was it made?

(c) The Response of the Peranakan Chinese batik entrepreneurs to batik Belanda and how their responses were incorporated into this work. 

(a) European and Indo-European Influences

In the second half of 19th century Pekalongan emerged as the most important production centre of European and Indo-European batiks, known as batik Belanda.  There were a number of important changes initiated by these designers which resulted in an uniquely new Pekalongan design format, the buketan- large and elaborate bouquets of European stemmed flowers in the badan (the body or main field of a batik cloth) and for a surung, a floral kepala.  The bouquet design (buketan), has been celebrated as being distinctively batik Pasisir ever sense.  Around 1900, the design of large bouquets of flowers surrounded by butterflies and birds was often depicted on a plain background.  This style became the most important fashion for Europeans and Indo-Europeans. These batik tulis works were of exceptional workmanship displaying an astounding palette of up to seven colours and canting work of intensely fine detail.  These works were highly prized by the wealthy and the possession of such communicated one's Dutch links.

In 1845 the first European batik workshop was opened by Carolina von Franquemont, at the age of 23. Her workshop was on the slopes of volcanic Mount Ungaran near the Ungaran River in Semarang.

In the 1870s when the colonial economy became accessible for non-governmental commercial initiatives, other Dutch and Indo-European batik workshops followed.

Highly successful Indo-European designers in Pekalongan included Lien Metzelaar, A.J.F. Jans and the best known and most influential, Lies van Zuylen who worked from the late 19th century until the 1940s. The practice of signing batik tulis became fashionable among the Indo-Europeans during the 1860s in Pekalongan. A signature indicated the origin of the workshop and emphasised the quality and originality of the work.

(b) Analysis of the Work 

[Please click on all images to enlarge]

Detail 1.  The buketan style was soon adopted by the Peranakan Chiniese entrepreneurs.  In this work, instead of a large bouquet of European flowers surrounded by birds and butterflies as seen in the work of Indo-Europeans, the Peranakan Chinese entrepreneur and waxer of this work, have been extremely free and fluid in their interpretation of the buketan motif.  The large bouquet of flowers has been replaced by a very sturdy flowering plant growing in a marsh, surrounded by a smaller version of the plant, grasses and gaily depicted birds and butterflies.  This work is a celebration and what it lacks in intricate craftsmanship, is made up by its joyous spirit.
[Photo Mick Richards]

Detail 2.  This image highlights the range of borders used in the work.  The wavy booh  (bow) inner border that completely surrounds the badan is not symmetrical.  The motif of freely drawn red and cream flowers in the booh which runs  along the lower edge and at the two short ends differ to that in the border along the top edge.  The motif of small flowers and leaves  in this border are more compressed and finer in its detail.  Along the upper and lower  long edges, there is an outer edge (seret) consisting of small vertical stripes, which depict a fence.  At each of the two shorter ends of the cloth there are four borders.  The outer border is made up of small triangles (said to depict arrow heads) which are similar to to those in a kepala.  The 'verticle fence' and the 'arror heads' are said to protect the wearer from unwanted influences while the booh borders are said to provide protection to the badan- the garden of paradise- from outside inferior influences.
[Photo Mick Richards]

This striking and beautiful work, a kain panjang from our collection, has intrigued and amazed us from the moment we first saw it.  It was not only its visual strength of both the motifs and the colours but also it sense of joyous celebration, that caught our attention.  The decision of the waxer (pembatik) to enhance and give all major and minor motifs in the badan a 'halo' effect also struck an accord with us. This effect has been achieved by continuous mark-making around the outline of each motif (details 3 & 5 highlight the use of this technique).  We had not first hand, seen this technique utilised before.  As a result the cloth displays a wonderful exuberance as well as a sense of drama.  There is nothing dainty about the work and it certainly does not display the technical intricacy the Indo-European and Peranakan Chinese are famous for.    

While the composition references the bouquet design (buketan), the drama and boldness of the motifs as well as the sense of freedom in the placement and depiction of the plants (growing in marshy land), their flowers, birds, and butterflies suggests to me there are other influences at play here.  Perhaps it was not made in a Peranakan Chinese workshop!  The outline-shape of the flowers suggests they may be carnations but these strong-stemmed plants may represent the 'tree-of-life' motif.  The motifs are awkwardly drawn and placed against a rich red coloured background that is sparsely dotted with outlines of small leaf shapes.  This style of drawing certainly has not been influenced by the flowing and curving lines of Art Nouveu which had been introduced to the north coast by the Europeans but it certainly signifies happiness, joy, and flourishing life.  The limited use of tananah motifs (filler motifs for the background), may reference the use of clear backgrounds introduced by the Indo-Europeans.

Detail 3.  Around 1900 the European and Indo-European entrepreneurs often depicted the buketan motif on a plain background.  The Peranakan Chinese maker of this cloth may have been influenced by this development, leaving much of the rich red background free of filler motifs (tanahan).  
[Photo Ian Reed]
The designer along with the batikker, has made little use of isen (filler motifs within each motif) except for various combinations of dots including clusters of seven dots within the body of the flowers, birds and butterflies.  There is scarce use of tanahan (the small motifs used to fill the background).   While there is an overall sense of simplicity to the development of each element, for example, the stylisation in the drawing of the flowers, the work still has a strong sense of originality and inventiveness.
The colours and forms of the batik are very cheerful.  The design is composed of seven colours: two tones of red; two of blue; one ochre (sometimes referred to as soga Pekalongan); one cream; and the very unusual taupe colour of the feathery fern-like veins in the leaves on the four large plants.  The waxing of this fern-like effect along with some of that in the borders, is the most intricate in the work.

Detail 4.  This is an unusual use of a taupe colour set against the dark blue ground of the leaf.  The feathery fern-like veins heightens the sense of energy in this work.  The use of the mark-making process as an outline of each motif is clearly visible.  The batikker rather then apply a wax outline as part of the first waxing, has adopted the technique illustrated here.  The batikker has been given much freedom by the workshop owner, to express her own creativity as there are many variations in the waxing process.  This in itself, creates a mystique around the origins of this batik.  
[Photo Ian Reed]

Another indication of the cloth's age can be determined by its border designs. The badan of this cloth is surrounded by a booh (bow) which is not symmetrical: the same design exists on the lower edge of the cloth as well as its two ends.  Across the top edge the floral design of the booh is finer and more dense.  The booh appeared around 1900 and it was about this time that the second inner border, the pinggir, disappeared.  The small vertical stripes (the seret) remain on the outer edge of both the top and lower edges of the cloth.      
In the years between 1840 and 1940, batik Belanda underwent many changes in colour and style.  The Chinese operated workshops in Pekalongan in turn, also made major changes, and went onto influence batik making in near-by centres.
(c) Response of the Peranakan Chinese   

The new styles, decorative innovations and customs were soon adopted by Peranakan Chinese entrepreneurs as seen in the work, above and below.  The Peranakan adopted and popularised the bouquet design (buketan) of stemmed flowers with butterflies and birds against a clear background that was developed by the Indo-European batik makers, and adapted them with different colours and more complex isen and tananah (filler) motifs.(3) These works utilised rich colours including red and blue.  In the late 19th century and early 20th century some of the finest and most technically intricate examples of the batik process have been made in workshops operated by Peranakan Chinese.  Their work was considered superlative for its intense detail, rich colours, and fine workmanship.The Chinese made many contributions but an important one was the use of colours found in Chinese decorative arts, which is dominated by bright colours and to a lesser extent, pastel tints.  Pastel tints were made possible by the introduction of synthetic dyes and it was the Chinese workshops who were the first to use them.

A Peranakan Chinese inspired bouquet design (buketan) of four large flowering plants along-side four smaller versions of the plants surrounded by butterflies and birds which are set against a strong red background dotted randomly with small leaf shapes.
Pekalongan, late 19th century/early 20th century
Skirt cloth kain panjang
Cotton, natural dyes?, batik tulis
106.0 x 255.0 cm
Greg Roberts & Ian Reed Collection
[Photo Mick Richards]

Detail 5 [Photo Ian Reed]

Detail6 [Photo Ian Reed]


Djoemena, Nian S. Ungkapan Sehelai. Batik - Its Mystery and Meaning. Jakarta: Djambatan, 1986.

Heringa, Rens and Veldhuisen Harmen C. Fabric of Enchantment. Batik from the North Coast of Java. Los Angeles: County Museum of Arts, 1996. (Rens Heringa. Batik Pasisir as Mestizo Costume. 46 - 69.  I highly recommend this essay for anyone wishing to develop their knowledge and appreciation of the appearance and meaning of batik Pasisir).

Van Dartel, Daan.  Collectors Collected - Exploring Dutch colonial culture through the study of batik. Tropenmuseum Bulletin 369. Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2005.

Ito, Fusami. Javanese Batik: Changing motifs and Techniques. Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture, Tokyo University.

Van Roojen, Pepin. Batik Design. Amsterdam: The Pipin Press, 2001.

Chor Lin, Lee. Batik - Creating an Identity. Singapore: National Museum of Singapore and Editions Didier Millet, 2007.

Knight-Achjadi, Judi & Damais, Asmoro. Butterflies and Phoenixes - Chinese Inspirations in Indonesian Textile Arts.Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2006.

Tirta, Iwan. Batik - A Play of Light and Shades. Jakarta: Gaya Favorit Press, 1996.     

Detail 7.  Despite its many variations in style and waxing this cloth must have held great significance for the owner in order for it to still be in the excellent condition it is, after some 110 years.
[Photo Ian Reed]

After 110 years this beautiful batik is still cherished, loved and admired and it will live on to intrigue many, for centuries to come.

 Please Comment - I would love to know your thoughts about this work so in turn, we all can enrich our knowledge and appreciation of this intriguing work . Where does this work belong in the development of Pekalongan's rich batik tradition?



  1. Detail 7 showed a particular leave of this abstract plant in the marsh quite different from the other leaves. The rendition of the fern like lines on this leave changed from being decorative (focusing on the pattern of a leave) to being realistic (focusing on having it in 3-D depicting the light and shade). That leave really comes alive. It is very interesting.

  2. Good post !! I appreciate with your article writing,here its my first visit and i found a great information here.

    Remove tree Sydney

  3. The analysis shows that the work really has European design influences. We feel an incredible master of the author, which is displayed in the creation of small details.

  4. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Genuinely rarely will i encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you might have hit the nail about the head. Your idea is outstanding; the problem is something that too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy i came across this around my look for something in regards to this. website design san francisco

  5. A person essentially help to make significantly articles I would state. This is the very first time I frequented your website page and so far? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular publish incredible. Wonderful task! website design san francisco

  6. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is wonderful blog. A great read. I will definitely be back. web design company los angeles

  7. Hello I am so delighted I located your blog, I really located you by mistake, while I was watching on google for something else, Anyways I am here now and could just like to say thank for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining website. Please do keep up the great work. Leslie Jean Designs

  8. Its fantastic as your other articles : D, thankyou for putting up.Kajabi

  9. On that website page, you'll see your description, why not read through this. cashmere cardigan

  10. Superbly written article, if only all bloggers offered the same content as you, the internet would be a far better place.. ออกแบบโลโก้ฮวงจุ้ย

  11. I am constantly surprised by the amount of information accessible on this subject. What you presented was well researched and well written to get your stand on this over to all your readers. Thanks a lot my dear. The Best Remote Team Management Tool

  12. These websites are really needed, you can learn a lot. Lingerie


Post a Comment

Popular Posts