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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 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. Pale orange face with white eyes, black pupils cast slightly downwards. Curved pointed nose, red lips. Black hair, moustache, beard and facial details. Large red crown (mahkota) with gold, green, white, and orange components, notably a green Garuda Mungkur with black tail, an extensive badong with two points and a single hair curl (kendit) with gold stripe. Black neck; upper torso gold. No arm ornaments; hands held flat and bent up at wrist. Red chest covering with yellow trim and sequin pattern: red apron with green waistband, brown trim and sequin decoration, yellow fringe at bottom. Long batik skirt in blue, red and beige.

History Of Use

Javanese puppetry as an art form probably developed by the 11th century. 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. A dalang (puppet master) performs the plays to celebrate important occasions, usually in three acts, with vocal and instrumental accompaniment. Typically they serve a moral and religious purpose, and more recently, one of political commentary. Kresna is the manifestation of Vishnu as the king (prabu) of Dwarawati. He is found in this form in the Mahabharata cycle, in which he pays particular attention to the Pandawa brothers, especially Arjuna, in their conflict with their usurpers, the Kurawa brothers.

Cultural Context

Theatrical performance.

Iconographic Meaning

Each puppet is characterized by its wanda, a Javanese word which describes the specific mixture of elements of size, form, colour, ornamentation and carving. Pale orange (cream?) face slightly less refined than white; facial details relatively refined. Crown identifies character as either a king (prabu), or a god (betara). Position of eyes, hands, batik skirt, and clothing also indicate a noble character; however, the large size of such a noble puppet suggests a god rather than a virtuous human, which would be represented in smaller scale. Puppet identified as Kresna because of close correspondence of headdress and facial features.

Item History

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