Item Records

This page shows all the information we have about this item. Both the institution that physically holds this item, and RRN members have contributed the knowledge on this page. You’re looking at the item record provided by the holding institution. If you scroll further down the page, you’ll see the information from RRN members, and can share your own knowledge too.

The RRN processes the information it receives from each institution to make it more readable and easier to search. If you’re doing in-depth research on this item, be sure to take a look at the Data Source tab to see the information exactly as it was provided by the institution.

These records are easy to share because each has a unique web address. You can copy and paste the location from your browser’s address bar into an email, word document, or chat message to share this item with others.

  • Data
  • Data Source

This information was automatically generated from data provided by MOA: University of British Columbia. It has been standardized to aid in finding and grouping information within the RRN. Accuracy and meaning should be verified from the Data Source tab.


Three-dimensional male humanoid puppet: large head (part b) fits into body with skirt (part a), and a control rod (part c) with a long shaft passes through the body and fits into the neck of the figure's head. The body has jointed arms, each with a long controlling rod attached. Pinky-beige coloured face, large upward looking eyes with black pupils and blue irises, scant black beard, short blunt nose. Visible lower teeth with three fangs protruding from centre and either side of lower jaw. Bumps on forehead and top of head with circles of red, pink, and light pink; large round bump on back of neck with smaller bumps on either side. Head bald. Head detachable and joined to body by controlling rod with carved grip. Body and arms completely covered by long dress; unpainted round torso. Arms jointed at shoulder and elbow with string; hands tied to controlling wands; pink forearms and hands with fingers straight and parallel to arms. Green, blue, yellow, and dark red plaid dress with pink trim at neck and front opening and secured by tack to upper torso at neck. Orange, brown, green, dark red and yellow plaid skirt extending below dress.

History Of Use

Javanese puppetry as an art form probably developed by the 11th century. The three-dimensional wooden wayang golek puppets of western Java 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. An individual or group hires a dalang (puppet-master) 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. Semar and the other members of the punakawan are thought to be remnants form the pre-Hindu Javanese mythology. Semar is a considered to be an aspect of Ismaya, protector of the islands of Java. The clowns provide levity in the plays, a feature not typically present in the austere epics upon which they are based. They are also the only characters to make political or topical comments outside of the general scope of the plays. The Punakawan appear on the right with the good characters; in some rare cases they are themselves heroes. Their 'evil' traits are manifested in their tendency to ridicule or parody their noble masters. The features also serve to show the ambiguous nature of conflict between good and evil.

Cultural Context

Theatrical performance.

Iconographic Meaning

Large lump on rear of neck a characteristic peculiar to the Punakawan, or clown class of puppets. Bump on forehead, projecting teeth in lower jaw and small nose probably indicate Semar is the eldest and father of the other Punakawan. The body does not have features normally found with Semar. Large eyes and teeth and the bumps on the head are coarse traits which resulted from curse and changed into a misshapen dwarf.

Item History

With an account, you can ask other users a question about this item. Request an Account

With an account, you can submit information about this item and have it visible to all users and institutions on the RRN. Request an Account

Similar Items