Pekalongan - Oey Djien Nio - Liem Siek Hien - Jane Hendromartono


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 -

Jane Hendromartono.

Judi Achjadi wrote: Pekalongan's batik industry thrived on catering to the diverse tastes of clients from all over Indonesia.  The batik of Demak and Kudus on Central Java's north coast was so well-known for its fine detailing that the Pekalongan enterprises often wrote 'Kudus' or 'Demak'on the cloths (see below), so that they would be recognised by people who wanted one of these famed cloths but did not have access to Kudus or Demak batik-makers.  [Judi Achjadi & H. Santosa Doellah. The Glory of Batik- The Danar Hadi Collection.  Solo, Pt. Batik Danar Hadi , 2011]  

Detail 1
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 


Detail 2

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).

While the work has a pagi-sore structure the diagonal divisdion can be seen above in Detail 1.  The two halves have a common background made up of an overall shade of brown that was widely used in Kudus.  The background has been broken-up by the repetition of small white dots and multicoloured flower petals.  Perhaps these petal shapes also resemble the clover leaf shapes known as tanahan Semarangan motifs.  Tanahan motifs fill-in the spaces outside the main motifs, on the background.  Batik Pasisir is renowned for the finest and most technically intricate examples of the batik process.  Central to the achievement of these qualities is the incorporation of tanahan and isen-isen motifs by highly skilled batikkers with extraordinary canting skills.  Isen-isen are the tiny filler motifs used within the outlines of the key motifs.  Together these tiny motifs are what distinguishes Indonesian batik from that of other countries, where they are not used.


Detail 3

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.

Detail 4

Liem Siek Hien's attention to variations in surface detail is highlighted by her exquisite treatment of the birds' feathers, as in Detail 4 above.  The exotic plumage of each of the four birds utilises an array of combinations of intricately developed decorative approaches and colours .  The birds are placed against an equally intricate but darker in colour background.  The delicate water-colour treatment of each birds' heads has most likely been achieved by the batikker first encircling the shape with wax-resist, followed by hand-colouring.  This is a process known variously as colet, besut, and dulit, depending on local terminology.

Detail 5

All of the various flower and bird arrangements in this inspired work are flexible and flowing.  All elements possess the spirit of life.  As in Detail 5 above, a sense of depth is added to the flowers by the use of darker central areas and shaded filler motifs.  The extreme finest of the linear use of white dots (that appear like lines), flowing from the tips of each bloom back down into the centre, are extraordinary!  The more dense the dots, the lighter the colour becomes.  This is an excellent example of the use of isen-isen motifs to enhance the main motif     The delicate pink of the blooms lights up against the darker background.    

Detail 6

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,
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 whilst it is the current issue or always via the back issues page by first clicking on the cover image thumbnail.

I hope you enjoy this truly wonderful art work and I would greatly appreciate receiving your thoughts about it and/or the artist, Liem Siek Hien.  Sourcing information about individual batik artists is difficult so all feed-back is greatly appreciated.  It is marvellous to be back sharing my passion for batik with you, after such a long absence.......for those of you with good health, embrace and hold onto it, so you can spend much more time travelling Indonesia and enjoy the great experience of visiting the batik workshops along the north coast of Java!




  1. A truly marvelous Batik! Thanks you for sharing!

  2. Thank you Sabine......I look forward to your responses. Your passion for textiles as expressed in your Blog, is infectious.

    With old batik there is one very special quality that cannot be experienced without holding it. With the passage of time combined with the owner's respect and reverence for it, this cotton cloth has become so soft and silkly to both touch and sight.

    There is nothing like the power of an original art work to elicit many emotions and in this case, the work offers us an experience of great beauty- balance, purity and serenity.

    1. Ah thanks :)
      I'm writing a new post about a new Vlisco (wax print) I purchased. The motif is with a nest full of eggs and I was looking in my batikbooks for an image to compare it too and then I remembered this beautiful batik.

      I once had the opportunity to see and touch 100 year old batiks, but I found it also very scary, I coulnt stop thinking I could maybe damage them so easy because there so fragile.

      Keep sharing those beautiful batiks and I hope I can maybe see them in real life on day!

  3. thank you for showing this beautiful batik. The dyeing technique on the bird's head with colet is very interesting. It is close to how I work on my watercolour on paper with blending wet on wet and dry brush on wet etc. I did the Yuzen kimono in this way in Kyoto.
    I will discuss with Batik Komar on my design as I have a feeling some of the fine details on the human figure's skin and blending colours of the tree branches will have to be in the colet method.
    I am having a good conversation on natural dye with Mr. Zahir and Mr. Hartono gave me directions to Sragen. I am looking forward to visit Pekalongan to see Mr. Sapuan.

  4. A most interesting article and wonderful illustrations. Thank you. Graeme Steel, Surabaya

  5. Using the famous fabric as a base material was a sign of luxury. Its backgrounds and forms attract with their unusual, but interesting features.

  6. This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not every day that I have the possibility to see something like this.. musica italiana


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