Inventory no.: 585

585. Indonesian Javanese Antique Batik


Batik Head Cloth (Iket Kepala)

Central Java, Indonesia

circa 1910

length: 106cm; width: 98cm

The design of this batik head cloth or iket kepala with a central undecorated square is central Javanese in style and associated with the courts (kratons) of central Java. Brown, cream and dark blue dye have been applied to a silk or silk/cotton fabric. Abstract animals sit among branches, leaves and flowers. The central square or tengahan has a lidah api or ‘tongues of flame’ edging.

The rulers of the central Javanese courts in Yogyakarta and Solo decreed in the seventeenth century that batik dress must be worn at court. It was further stipulated that the colours used must be brown, cream and dark blue. This threesome became characteristic of the batik worn by the Sultan and his extended family, which due to polygamy, were quite extensive.

Men in the court were required to wear a batik head cloth such as the example here. Ordinary Javanese tended not to wear batik as part of their ordinary dress until after World War Two.

The abstraction of the animals depicted in this batik is also typically Javanese. More realistic (and less mystical) depictions were considered course and indecent. This cloth can be compared with the batik of the north coast of Java which is more colourful, has more realistic depictions of animals and other motifs and is much influenced by the local

peranakan Chinese community.

The cloth is in perfect condition with no fraying, holes, creasing or fading.


This cloth was de-accessioned from the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco and was part of a bequest to the Museum by K. Ball. The cloth retains a small cloth inventory number (70-5-1) lightly sewn to one corner and another small sewn-on label that reads ‘K. BALL’. The museum’s textile collections contains 11,000 items.


similar iket kepala also dating to c.1910 are shown in Khan Majlis, B. et al, Batik from the Courts of Java and Sumatra: The Rudolf G. Smend Collection, Periplus, 2004, pps. 26-7.

Inventory no.: 585