A journey to search my soul

This is a blog of my personal collections. The purpose of this blog is to educate myself and public in regards to antiquities especially related to religion and calligraphy. I welcome everyone to input their feedback in this blog which they think would be helpful. I do not watermark the photos in this blog so everyone is free to use them as long as they are not used for illegal and unethical reasons. I appreciate if you could notify me if you plan to use any of the photos here. Enjoy browsing!!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ancient Artifact Review 44 : Antique Ceremonial / Calligraphic Batik / Kain Arab / Ikat Kepala ( late 19th Century- early 20th Century)

 This is a very rare "Batik Bertulis" / " Kain Arab" or Calligraphic Batik. It is a square batik cloth made of cotton dyed in blue with Arabic inscriptions. The calligraphy almost illegible most likely painted by illiterate makers or served talismanic purposes.
However I assume the writing on the background is similar to some other kain which I have seen in the catalog. The inscriptions are :

الله يرزقها وهوا السمع العليم ما يفتح الله للنا من رحمة فلا مما لها وما يمسك فلا بعده وهو العزيز الحكيم

So the scribbles could be imitating this inscriptions.

Interesting to note this cloth has 4 Ottoman tughras around a central flower like pattern. Michael Rogers, a curator for Khalili Collection identified the tughras as the signs of the Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II ( 1876-1918) only in the reversed side.
This piece was used predominantly as men's head cloth or "ikat kepala". Another usage might be as ceremonial hanging or wrapper for a Quran.
In a similar Calligraphic batik depicted in The Message & The Monsoon Catalog, page 113, this batik were most often worn by Muslim Southeast Asian men as head cloths and possibly as ceremonial uses. The Quranic verses and prayers on the cloth are believed to have properties that would protect the wearer from sickness or injury.

This particular batik was acquired from Penang however not necessarily was produced there. Most likely it was brought in from Java island.

There is a very similar batik  from National Museum Malaysia dyed in blue which was made in Cerebon ( West Java) circa 1900s. According to Mohd Taib Osman in his book Islamic Civilization in the Malay World, after the establishment of Islamic rule in Cerebon from 16th Century onward, the testimony of faith has been expressed into batik making. Batik in the form of long shawl, head cloth and ceremonial hangings were decorated with Quranic inscriptions.

In the book of Crescent Moon : Islamic Art & Civilization in Southeast Asia, the history of the production of this cloth is discussed in lengthy by Robyn Maxwell. Though the production of  textile with Islamic calligraphy started prior to 19th century, the calligraphy design on batik produced in Java between late 19th to early 20th century was at peak due to the accessibility of commercially woven cotton cloth.

Ceremonial or Calligraphic batik is very rare to find. In an auction at Christie's, 3 similar batiks were sold at USD3358 under sale number 5682 dating them from late 19th century to early 20th century. Below is the link

Batik at auction

Below is the Tughra of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. I tried to match it with the Tughras on the cloth, though they have some resemblances they do not quite match confirming Michael Rogers remark i.e in reversed form.

The diplomatic relationship between Indonesia ( Aceh particularly) and Ottoman Empire started since 16th Century with the first Acehnese envoy sent by Sultan Alaudin Riayat Syah (1539–1571CE) confirming vassal status to Ottoman and requesting military support from Sultan Suleiman The Magnificient against the threatening Portugese. The last request for military support was beseeched in 1897 CE by Sultan Muhammad Daud Syah ( the 35th and the last Aceh Sultan) to Sultan Abdul Hamid II against the Dutch. Hence as a vassal state, we can expect so much Ottoman influences in Acehnese culture. This explains the Tughra in this batik bersurat.

There is also similar cloth displayed in Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia which dated to late 19th Century-early 20th Century.

See my other similar cloth on :
Red Calligraphy Batek

Dim : 100mm x 900mm
Date : late 19th - early 20th Century
Material :hand drawn batik
Origin :  Malay Archipelago
Price : RM pr

Ref :
The Message & The Monsoon Catalog, page 113
Islamic Civilization in the Malay World, Mohd Taib Osman, pg 316
Ottoman-Aceh Relations according to the Turkish Source, Ismail Hakki Goksoy
Crescent Moon : Islamic Art & Civilization in Southeast Asia, pg 214


  1. Assalamu'alaikum

    This batik calligraphy is called 'kain besurek' which was normally worn during the funeral ceremony in the west sumatra part of Indonesia, but could be made in Lampung province of Indonesia or Cirebon,of western Java. To the best of my knowledge, your batik may be originated from the first quarter of 20th century instead of 19th cent AD.



  2. Please also see mine here




  3. Dear Faisal Reza. Thank you for your comment. You might be correct in this regards however dating this "kain" can be tricky. Though this kain has some resemblances to yours but it's not necessarily come from the same production house or the same era. People in the past tend to copy the design especially the tughra and the calligraphy. This kain was bought from a renowned Southeast Asian art historian and also a major collector of Southeast Asia textile. He has been contributing his advises, lectures and samples to museums and exhibitions in the region. Judging from the condition of the cloth, he is dating this kain from late 19th Century to early 20th Century. I am using his estimate in cataloging this specimen. Thank you so much for your inputs.

  4. Ini untuk dijual?