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Javanese people The inseparable pair [loro blonyo] mid 18th century - early 19th century Place made: Jogjakarta, Java, Indonesia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, wood, pigments, gold leaf
Dimensions: male 67.5 h x 33.0 w x 22.0 d cm female 56.0 h x 23.0 w x 25.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2013
Accession No: NGA 2013.689.1-2

Elegant pairs of sculptural figures are commissioned for display at wedding ceremonies in the royal courts of central Java. Placed on the floor at the end of the heirloom textile-draped ritual marriage bed of a noble couple, the ‘inseparable’ pair—loro blonyo in Javanese—represents the rice goddess Dewi Sri and her consort Raden Sadono. Like the rice goddess herself, the loro blonyo pair embodies fertility and prosperity and, in the context of the palace, the magnificent couple also encapsulate the continuity and wellbeing of the realm.

Many loro blonyo are depicted wearing batik, the preferred textile type for the elite in central Java from the second half of the nineteenth century. Here, however, the couple are dressed in patola (cinde in Javanese), an expensive imported Indian silk textile worn only by royalty. Dewi Sri also wears an auspicious bangun tulak breast cloth that offers symbolic protection, while Raden Sadono displays a pair of the mystical black talismanic belts of human hair, worn by Javanese sultans. The Gallery’s renowned Indonesian textiles collection includes excellent examples of each type of cloth depicted on this pair.

Both figures are adorned in ceremonial gold jewellery: armlets in the form of mythical serpents, three-tiered pendants, wide bangles, ear studs and the pointed ear ornaments associated with Jogjakarta royalty. Their hairstyles are also distinctive, with Raden Sadono displaying hair pulled back in a long queue under his aristocratic fez-shaped cap, while Dewi Sri’s hair is scalloped around the forehead in the style of a royal bride, and held at the back with a gold mesh.

Despite the accuracy displayed in the formal wedding costumes, the sleek torsos and limbs are starkly stylised, and the superbly crafted figures have an exceptional serene presence.

Robyn Maxwell Senior Curator, Asian Art

in artonview, issue 78, Winter 2014