VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Blue and white altar cloth
2012-00059
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Batik altar cloths are not commonly found throughout the Straits Settlements and seem to be used more in the batik producing regions of the north Coast of Java. It tells the story of local adaptation, as batik cotton altar cloths were used instead of imported embroidered ones due to their better ability to withstand the tropical climate. It also depicts the various cultural influences that were present in the region through its motifs and designs. In particular, this piece is of very fine craftsmenship.

History of the Object
This batik altar cloth bears the images of the three Daoist stellar gods Hock (good fortune), Lock (prosperity) and Siew (longevity). A bouquet of flowers (bukitan) decorates the lower panel. This is unusual for an altar cloth; floral patterns are more commonly seen on sarongs, such as those by Dutch Eurasian batik maker Eliza Van Zuylen. A blue and white piece like this might have been used on the ancestral altar. Batik altar cloths were likely made on the north coast of Java and their decoration was probably inspired by embroidered versions imported from southern China that were used by Peranakans in the straits settlements. Altar cloths were used as decorative textiles for the fronts of Daoist altars during significant occasions such as weddings, funerals and feast days.

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Type
Textile 
Materials
Cotton 
Measurements
H:105.8 x W:109.5cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Indonesia 
Geography
Indonesia 
Time period
AD 20th century ~ AD 20th century 
Creation date
Early 20th century 
Function
Altar cloths (tok wi in Baba Malay) are decorative textiles that are hung at the front of Daoist altars during significant occasions such as weddings, funerals and on feast days.  
Acquisition
 
Copyright
Peranakan Museum, Singapore 
Acknowledgements
Maria Khoo Joseph, Jackie Yoong 
Owner
Peranakan Museum, Singapore 
Museum
Peranakan Museum, Singapore 
Credit line
Gift of Matthew and Alice Yapp 

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