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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. White face positioned downwards: straight, pointed nose, red lips, and exposed small white teeth. Heavily outlined, somewhat large white eyes. Black hair, facial details. Large curl (gelung supit urang) headdress in black and green with gold sumping and diadem. Other colours: yellow, white, red. Small single hair curl (kendit). Gold neck and upper torso; arms with green and red ornaments at biceps and wrists. Hands held flat and bent back at wrist. Black chest covering with yellow trim, sequins and beads. Black apron with red waistband, brown wavy trim, sequins and beads. Long batik skirt with drawstring (blue, brown, 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. Aradea is a king (prabu) found in the Mahabharata cycle. This puppet may be a deliberate variation to suggest differences of age, or temperament (white face suggests piety, as opposed to pink, which indicates more aggressive nature, less selflessness).

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. Position and colour of face suggest high virtue. Delicate features of face very refined; position of hands, headdress, and batik indicate high nobility. Headdress of puppet corresponds to that of Aradea, but face varies (white rather than pink, lacks moustache).

Item History

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