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A carved flat wooden puppet with leather arms. The red face, in profile, has a blunt nose with a large eye that has a red iris. Protruding teeth are in the upper jaw while fangs are extending from both the upper and the lower jaw. Black hair. Headdress with diadem and ear ornament. Polychrome and gold-colouring are dominant throughout the figure which is accented by blue, red, green, and white. Intricate cut-out design on the skirt which is held on by string and wire. Moveable arms are jointed at the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Sticks are attached to the hands for manipulation.

History Of Use

Javanese puppet theatre as an art form probably developed by the 11th century. The two-dimensional wooden wayang kulit puppets of Javanese religious shadow playss preceded the later and less sacred wayang golek puppets which appeared during the 16th century. Originally the plays depicted Javanese mythology, but after the Indian conquest of Java the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, were incorporated into the cycles, which comprise about 200 plays. The wayang kulit sacred shadow plays form is thought to have originated in southern India; the wayang golek puppets are indigenous adaptations. Although the prototype wayang kulit puppets are the older form, many symbolic elements remain the same. The shadow playss are performed by a dalang (puppet master) who is more formally a priest. An individual or group requests a dalang to celebrate important occasions. The performances often last all night and are generally presented in three acts, with vocal and instrumental accompaniment. The individual plays vary widely in detail but usually involve conflict between good and evil. They serve a moral and religious purpose, and more recently, one of political commentary. Each puppet's character is represented by its appearance and placement onstage; protagonists with strong elements of good are placed to the right, antagonists of violent or evil nature to the left. Prahasta Brajawisesa appears in the less-often performed Ardjuna Sasra Bahu cycle, in which he is the general of the armies of Alengka against Danaraja.

Cultural Context

Theatrical performance.

Iconographic Meaning

Red face, eyes, fangs, and nose are characteristic traits of evil players in puppet theatre. Clothing and ornaments suggest wealth and perhaps rank of the individual; particular headdress and facial features are associated with Brajawisesa, prince and uncle of Rahwana. He appears in the role of a prahasta or patih (political advisor), and general of the army in the Ardjuna Sasra Bahu cycle.

Item History

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