" A very rare silk batik sarong hand-drawn in Juana or Rembang on the north coast of East Java with the quintessential motif of silk batiks—the bird known as lokcan—in indigo blue top-dyed with reddish-brown kayu tinggi on an ivory ground. This textile shows the strong, dramatic character of this old type of batik. Associated with the Chinese phoenix, the pairs of large lokcan in each half of the cloth are drawn with a particularly powerful, mythical grandeur in this piece, with 3 long tails, broad wings, densely detailed bodies, and a crest resembling a crown. They are accompanied by smaller versions whose tails appear like additional wings, and surrounded by a variety of floral motifs—carnations (teardrop-shaped with spiky petals), passion fruit (with 3 horseshoe-shaped segments), 4-petalled flowers or pods, and small round fruits.
The sarong was made by joining 2 pieces of silk along the selvedge before the batik was drawn. Its design is bisected by the traditional head panel (kepala) of alternate short and tall triangles, the points of which are all joined to form a geometric pattern focussed on the central column of diamonds. Sprigs of many different kinds fill the sections, and the panel is framed on either side by a wide border with more lokcan and passion fruit. Of particular note are the spiky extensions of the motifs, called ren (thorns), that give a striking, sharp character to the design, and complement the solid dark forms and curves of the motifs. An interesting personal detail is the tiny Arabic script penned by the owner around one carnation motif. A beautiful and imposing, rare example of this genre of silk batiks in the sarong format, distinguished by fine strong lines and rich detail.
The genre of silk batiks for which Juana and Rembang were well known was named lokcan after the bluish tint of the silk base, though the word has come to refer to their characteristic motif of the phoenix. This type is a notable exception to the traditional preference of batik makers and wearers for cotton. Made by the local Chinese communities—known as Peranakan—who valued silk as more refined, lokcan sarongs and shoulder cloths became popular in the late 19th century. This type of silk sarong was worn on the north coast of Java, but most were exported to the Lampung area of Sumatra, and to Bali, where they were part of ceremonial or dance costumes. Lokcan batiks are featured in all batik books for their unique decorative style, which is associated with designs traditional to the north coast, especially of East Java, before the innovations introduced by Indo-European batikers. (See Heringa & Veldhuisen, Fabric of Enchantment, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1996, 109 for a similar, but less finely drawn, example.)
The textile is in excellent condition apart from 1 hole at one outer edge and 2 at the other and a small tear at the top left corner; this type nearly always has some damage due to the fragility of the silk. There are one or two faint stains, and part of the seam joining the 2 pieces is loose. The blue-black top-dyed kayu tinggi is deep, the brown has a golden tone, and the ivory ground is dark, with a bluish tint. The silk is heavy, soft, and thick, smooth and cool to the touch, with a liquid drape and gentle luster.
59" x 37"