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Description

Three-dimensional male puppet (Petruk, panakawan clown character): large head (part b) fits into body with skirt (part a), and a control rod (part c) with a long shaft passes through the body and fits into the neck of the figure's head. The body has jointed arms, each with a long, black controlling rod attached. Carved wooden head has a pink face with black hair. A hump lies at the rear base of the skull. Face has exaggerated features, notably a long, bulbous nose inclined upward, and large bulging eyes with red irises. Red lips surround the wide, grimacing mouth, with a single wide tooth protruding from the middle of the top lip. Eyebrows are black and heavy. A small black moustache with a central triangular beard below the mouth joined to similar triangles of beard below the corners of the mouth. Thin, curling sideburns are found beside the ears decorated with four lines extending from a point. Cheeks, chin and forehead protrude. Lines below eyes, with stylized frown-lines between. The torso is dressed in a long-sleeved black cloth jacket with an upright collar, decorated at the back with 19 red and gold sequins. Chest has pattern of 27 red and gold sequins with zigzag gold braid. The pink wooden hands are outstretched, with thumbs inclined away from fingers. The skirt is of dark blue and green plaid cotton (with several small and one substantial (2cm.) holes).

History Of Use

Javanese puppetry as an art form probably developed by the 11th century. The three-dimensional wooden wayang golek puppets of western Java, which are to be distinguished from the earlier and more sacred wayang kulit shadow plays puppets or other forms, 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. An individual or group hires a dalang (puppet-master) to celebrate important occasions. The performances often last all night and are generally presented in three acts, with vocal and instrumental accompaniment. The individual plays vary widely in detail but usually involve conflict between good and evil. They serve a moral and religious purpose, and more recently, one of political commentary. Each puppet's character is represented by its appearance and placement onstage; protagonists with strong elements of good are placed to the right, antagonists of violent or evil nature to the left. Petruk, a character common to most puppet sets in Indonesian wayang, is an addition to the Hindu tradition which perpetuates an older religious form of the islands. Although his role is commonly trivial buffoonery, Petruk and the Punakawan present a contrast to their refined lords, who they often parody along with their high ideals and interplay with the gods. The Punakawan, particularly Petruk, serve to cast the Hindu tradition in a more acceptable, human light. They are an intermediary between the gods and the nobles who they serve, and the more common audience, who themselves display characteristics of both good and evil. The Punakawan provide levity to the plays and also to the more serious spiritual concerns, which demonstrates the flexibility and perhaps accounts for the continuing popularity of the rich and sophisticated tradition of Indonesian puppetry.

Cultural Context

Theatrical performance.

Iconographic Meaning

The pink face is commonly associated with fierce and uneven temperament. Its facial expression is irreverent and immodest, as are its gaudy clothes. The red eyes, grotesque or ugly features and beard are considered representative of evil. Bulbous features, long erect nose, and single tooth identify the character as Petruk. Petruk, his father Semar, and his brothers Bagong and Gareng comprise the Punakawan (clowns) who serve the Pandawas (particularly Arjuna). Semar is thought to be a manifestation of Ismaya, protecting deity of the island of Java. These characters are indigenous additions to the imported Hinduism, although many of their features are adopted from it. Although they serve the good Pandawas, their appearances betray some traits that are more commonly associated with the evil adversaries, the Kurawas and the demons and giants. This tendency is portrayed by their parody of their noble masters and, commonly, their comments on less austere subjects.

Item History

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