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Shadow puppet made of skin. Represents the character Kresna (Krishna). The figure has green skin exposed at its face, arms, chest, stomach and legs. He wears an elaborate gold, red, blue green and white headdress. The red and blue elements of the puppet are striped with black lines. The gold elements of the puppet have small holes through them and scalloped edges to mimic the shapes of fine metalwork. The figure’s face is in profile; it has long black sideburns and a thin curly moustache. His eyes and tongue are red. A large gold necklace hands down the figure’s chest. He also wears a gold chest piece that wraps around his torso. There are gold bracelets on each of the figure’s upper arms and wrists. On his fingers, there are gold rings. At each of the figure’s shoulder joints, elbows and wrists, there are metal nails the pieces of skin and attaching the skin of the hands to wooden sticks. One of the sticks is on the front and the other is on the back of the puppet. These allow the puppet to have movable arm joints. Wrapped around the figures waist is an elaborate skirt with red, blue, green, white and gold detailing. The fabric of the skirt also wraps around the upper left thigh of the figure. The toe and finger nails of the puppet are painted white. There are gold bracelets around each of his ankles. There is a dark brown stick which is pointed at the bottom end attached to the front and back of the puppet with yellow thread.

History Of Use

Wayang kulit was established on Bali, when the Hindu Majapahit Court moved there in the 16th century, from neighbouring Java, after the first Islamic sultanate had been established. A dynamic living art, over the centuries, Balinese wayang kulit has developed its own distinctive aesthetic, with more realistic looking human characters. The stories performed are frequently drawn from the Mahabharata, with an extensive cast of gods, heroes, villains, ogres and demons.

Iconographic Meaning

The use of colour is highly symbolic: it communicates the personalities and qualities of the puppets. Kresna (an avatar of Wisnu) is first painted white to characterize his spiritual purity, and then painted either green or blue, which symbolizes intelligence, harmony and courage. In contrast, Bima, the second Pandhawa brother, is painted red; a colour associated with tempestuousness, boldness and strength.

Item History

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