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Three-dimensional male humanoid puppet: large head (part b) fits into body clothed in shirt and skirt (part a), and a control rod (part c) with a long shaft that 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. The figure has a light yellow face, and a headdress that winds around the head in a spiral. White eyes with red irises, and pointed nose. Black moustache and beard. One row of teeth on upper jaw. Hands point at right angles to arms; black bracelet at wrist. Clothing consists of a yellow, green and off-white geometric print skirt with a white, collared shirt that has folded cuffs.

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, which are to be distinguished from the earlier and more sacred wayang kulit shadow plays puppets or other forms, 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. Betara Narada appears in the wayang purwa as a messenger of the gods, providing information or manipulating the plot in ways otherwise not possible. Narada intervenes in combat between Karma and Pamade by telling Karma that his marriage to Surtikanti is predetermined by the deities.

Cultural Context

Theatrical performance.

Iconographic Meaning

Yellow or pale gold face denotes calmness of temperament. Songkok (spiral headdress with hanging neck cloth), lack of armbands, anklets and shoes identify character as a god. Red eyes a negative feature. Print skirt is characteristic of an official; bracelet typical of high rank, such as that of a minister or prince. Tunic or jacket reveals that he is a god in this context. Identified as the god, Betara Narada, a celestial messenger. Narada has a variable role, following the whim of the gods rather than conventions which identify his character. He is neither good nor evil. He is a son of Drema and Lakshmi and advisor to Guru and his emissary on Earth.

Item History

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