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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. Head positioned forwards; cream face with white eyes. Black pupils looking slightly downwards; black hair, moustache, facial details. Small closed red lips. Curved pointed nose. Large crown (mahkota) headdress in red, gold and green; includes Garuda Mungkur and large badong. One hair curl (kendit) with gold stripe. Gold neck and torso; black chest and shoulder covering with rectangular apron; white trim, sequins, twisted wire decorations. Yellow frill at base of apron. Long batik skirt in beige, orange, blue and red. Each arm has ornaments in red, white, and green at wrist and bicep.

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. Shiva is the king of the Hindu pantheon; his sons are the predominant gods. He is found in all cycles. His puppet is known to have many manifestations because of the regularity of his appearances.

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. Crown indicates noble of the highest order, either a king (prabu) or a god (betara). Cream face less refined with white; curved nose less refined than straight. Position of hands, eyes, and clothing, headdress, and arm ornaments suggest nobility. Headdress and face resemble standard Shiva closely; the puppet seems to be a slight variation for a particular mood, state, or play.

Cultural Context

Theatrical performance.

Item History

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