Enquiry about object: 3820

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Opened Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt (Tapis Tua)

Pubian People, Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia
19th century

length: 125cm, width: 114cm



Acquired in the UK, from the estate collection of Dr George Yuille Caldwell (1924-2016). Dr Caldwell, an English-born physician moved to Singapore in the 1950s, from where he built up a collection of Indonesian textiles and other ethnographica.

This finely embroidered tapis (ceremonial skirt) is from the Pubian people of central Lampung in South Sumatra. It is a full tapis skirt but the seam that allowed the textile to be worn as a skirt has been opened for display purposes.

It comprises silk-cotton dyed with blue, purple, mustard-yellow and orange dyes and is densely embroidered and couched with bands of metallic thread wrapped in gold and applique work including metallic sequins.

The copious use of gilded metallic thread makes the skirt relatively heavy – almost too heavy to be worn comfortably, and so such skirts were worn for only brief periods and for ceremonial occasions.

See Brinkgreve & Stuart-Fox (2013, p. 115) for an example, attributed to the 19th century, and which employs similar motifs.

The piece is in fine condition, particularly given its age and the material from which it is made. There are some loose threads but the losses are minor, and some minor blemishes or staining here and there. But overall, this is a very good piece.

See the final photograph for some Lampung women wearing tapis cloths – taken in central Lampung, in 1901.


Brinkgreve, F., & D.J. Stuart-Fox (eds), Living with Indonesian Art: The Frits Liefkes Collection, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, 2013.

Maxwell, R.,S ari to Sarong: Five Hundred Years of Indians and Indonesian Textile Exchange, NGA, 2003a.

Maxwell, R., Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation, Periplus, 2003b.

Totton, M.L., Wearing Wealth and Styling Identity: Tapis from Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia, Hood Museum of Art, 2009.

Vanderstraete, A., Magie van de Vrouw: Weefsels en Sieraden uit de Gordel van Smaragd, (The Magic of Women), Wereldmuseum, 2012.


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