A graphic cotton batik sarong hand-drawn in the town of Lasem with one of the classic, old patterns of the Javanese north coast named ganggang, meaning “seaweed”. The pattern represents the marine life of the coast, with large feathery black coils encircling flowers, plants and sea creatures—fish, crabs, cuttlefish, prawns. The motifs are drawn in bright red, light blue and gray-green on a cream ground, and the sea-life is skilfully blended with sprigs and leaves so that the different creatures are only be gradually discerned.
The head panel (kepala) presents a dramatic contrast to the light-colored body of the cloth, with another classic north coast design of birds in a flowering tree, worked in light on deep cherry red. The birds are all paired (with one exception), and their animated, slightly comic styling is typical of Lasem batik drawing. The sprays of white flowers and white lines detailing the motifs give this charming kepala panel a vibrant sparkle; the sharp notched 4-pointed starflowers dotting the background are unusual and particularly lively.
The red borders are asymmetrical, the straight upper border containing a rhythmic repetition of leaves and flowers on a vine, while the broader lower border follows the line of larger white flowers and red leaves to form an edging that matched the lace blouse worn with the sarong. A narrow striped outer border encloses the whole cloth, as a protective fence around the garden of the batik design. A beautiful old batik presenting 2 of the most characteristic designs of the Javanese north coast sarong, treated with the vividness distinctive of Lasem style and color.
This batik sarong was collected in Sumatra among the Peranakan Chinese communities, where the intense rich red of Lasem batik was highly valued by wealthy patrons. The premium set on color is shown in the Lasem classification of batiks by their color combinations, not by motifs: bang-bangan (red /cream) was appropriate for young girls; bang-biru (red /cream/ blue) for married women; bang-biru-ijo (red /cream /blue /green) for mature women.
The emphasis on red in the design (the prime auspicious color for the Chinese), the unusual twin fruit that resembles the double peach, a Chinese symbol of longevity, and the lovebirds in the head panel suggest it was intended as a bridal item. The live plant (growing from a rocky mound, not cut flower bouquets) is an important symbol in Chinese iconography, a version of the tree of the life.
Excellent condition except for 3 small sewn repairs in a cluster, and a few tiny holes, all of which are invisible unless the cloth is held up to the light, 1 in the red head panel is more visible (see images). The colors are clear and fresh, the red is especially vivid, and the cotton is of high quality, heavy smooth, cool, and a little crisp and thinned with age. I have left it in its original condition, but it can be unstitched to show the full contrast of the sarong design. A fine classic Javanese north coast batik with 2 especially vibrant designs that set each other off beautifully.
41" x 37" (37" stitched, would be 74" unstitched).