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Three-dimensional male (king) 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. Head positioned very slightly downwards; white face with pointed nose, red lips, and exposed white teeth. Somewhat large eyes with black irises. Red crown (mahkota) headdress with gold, pink, yellow diadem; yellow and white Garuda Mungkur. Black (short-tongue). Much black hair beneath crown. Neck, upper torso gold; each arm has a pair of ornaments at wrist and bicep in green and red. Hands held flat and bent back at wrist. Black chest covering and red apron with waistband and yellow fringe sewn with sequins and beads. Blue and brown batik skirt.

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. Prabhu Kuntiboja is a king (prabu) appearing in the Mahabharata cycle of legends. He can appear onstage as other kings. The puppet may, however, be an aspect of Rama, who is found (not surprisingly) in the Ramayana. Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu.

Cultural Context

Theatrical performance.

Iconographic Meaning

Prabhu Kuntibhoja character, king of the Kunti kingdom. Each puppet is characterized by its wanda, a Javanese word which describes the specific mixture of elements of size, form, colour, ornamentation and carving. For this puppet, the position and colour of the face suggest high virtue; the delicate facial features are refined; the position of the hands, colour of skin, batik skirt, and particularly the crown headdress indicate high nobility.

Item History

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