February 19, 2016: Indonesian Batik
This framed Indonesian batik was given to UC Davis in 1965 by Mrs. Howard (Idaho) Vaughn (1886-1968). Accession records indicated that it was displayed at Picnic Day in 1966, along with Indonesian puppets from Java lent by Dr. Denise O'Brien and Balinese wood sculptures from the collection of Katherine Branstetter.
Mrs. Vaughn and her husband (1890-1953) lived in Dixon and were renowned in the livestock community of Northern California. Mr. Vaughn was known for his registered Shorthorns cows, Shropshire sheep and Chester White hogs. The couple were also known as world travelers and it, therefore, seems reasonable to assume they collected this batik on one of their trips.
Batiks are wax-resist dyed fabrics; the designs are traditionally hand-drawn with a stylus or canting. The two colors, blue from the indigo plant, and brown, from the bark of the soga tree, indicate that the piece was made on Java.
Four Wayang Kulit, or shadow puppets, are depicted in the corners of this meter-square batik. Stories from two Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, are recounted in shadow plays, often with a musical accompaniment by a gamelan group. Each puppet master or dhalang chooses from among 500 different characters to tell a story taken from these epics.
The Mahabharata tells the story of the war between the Pandawa brothers and their evil cousins the Kurawas. In the lower left is Puntadewa or Yudistira, eldest of the Pandawa brothers, said to be steadfast even during war. Arjuna, in the upper right, is the middle brother, known for his single-minded concentration and devotion to Kresna, a Hindu deity usually identified by his black face. The remaining two puppets depict the same character, Parikesit, the grandchild of Arjuna.
In 2003, UNESCO designated Wayang Kulit as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Davis community will have the opportunity to see a shadow play at the Mondavi Center on April 24, 2016 at 3 pm, performed by dhalang Midiyanto, accompanied with gamelan music performed by Sari Raras from UC Berkeley. On May 12, 2016, 12 noon, the UC Davis Javanese gamelan ensemble, under the direction of Phil Acimovic, will perform at the Mondavi Center.
The central design of the batik is composed of eight double winged Garuda, a large bird-like creature that is Indonesia's national symbol. The framing edge design is free form, as opposed to being geometric, and is based on stylized patterns of forms taken from nature.
Indonesian batiked fabric is typically rectangular in shape so that the wearer can wrap herself/himself in a sarong. The square shape of this batik suggests that it was perhaps made as a Blangkon, or man's cap.