Page 1


Living with Indonesian Art


Living with The Frits Liefkes Collection

Indonesian Art

Francine Brinkgreve and David J. Stuart-Fox Editors Contributors Francine Brinkgreve, Matthew Isaac Cohen, Wahyu Ernawati, Rapti Golder-Miedema, Linda Hanssen, Rens Heringa, Hedi Hinzler, Nico de Jonge, Pieter ter Keurs, Wouter Kloek, Sirtjo Koolhof, Sri Kuhnt-Saptodewo, Johanna Leijfeldt, Pauline Lunsingh Scheurleer, Constance de Monbrison, Maggie de Moor, Reinhold Mittersakschmรถller, David J. Stuart-Fox, Jan Veenendaal, Fanny Wonu Veys, Rita WassingVisser, Arnold Wentholt, Robert Wessing, Albert van Zonneveld.

Collection Series Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde / National Museum of Ethnology


Contents 9

10 16 22

Preface / Stijn Schoonderwoerd Frits Liefkes and his collection Frits Liefkes (1930-2010), in memoriam / Wouter Kloek and Jan Veenendaal The attraction of collecting: Frits Liefkes as collector / Pieter ter Keurs The Frits Liefkes collection in Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde / Francine Brinkgreve

28 32 36 38 40 48 50 52 54 60 62 80 86 90 100 102 106 108 118

Sumatra Acehnese gold jewellery Silk textiles of Aceh Two Acehnese daggers Ancestor figures of Nias and Batu Islands Gold jewellery of Nias Batak rider Medicine horn of a Batak priest Batak bracelets Batak jewellery Batak beaded shoulder band Textiles of the Minangkabau Gold jewellery of the Minangkabau Lacquered bridal cabinet from Palembang Textiles from Palembang and Bangka Silver lotus bowl from Palembang Sumatran daggers Textiles from the Pasemah highlands Textiles from Lampung Lampung ship cloths

124 126 128 132 158 160 162 164 166 168 172 174 176 178

Java Old Javanese jewellery Wayang oil lamp Javanese wayang puppets Early West Javanese batik A Javanese ceremonial dodot Circumcision chair Statue as stand for umbrella or lance Ceremonial chopper Stag head Golden betel set in turtleshell box, made in Madura Betel utensils from Java Peranakan Chinese fish pendants Peranakan Chinese silver buckle Two ornate water vessels


182 188 192 194 198 202 204 206 210 212 215 218

Bali Set of ornamental Balinese table and chairs Statues of Panji and Langkesari Hanging shrine for the god Kumara Carved boxes as animal vehicles for ancestors and deities Two Balinese keris Balinese containers from precious metals The mythic Garuda bird as protective ornament Balinese gold jewellery Temple flag Gilded textiles Double ikat cloths from Tenganan Wayang puppets

222 224 226 229 232 236 238 242 244

Kalimantan Longhouse apartment door Bahau baby carrier Paraphernalia of a Ngaju shaman Dayak mandau Dayak ear ornaments Beaded Kenyah sun hat Maloh beaded textiles Man’s barkcloth jacket Brass gong from Brunei

246 248 250 251 254 256 259 262 264 266 268

Sulawesi Golden jar with Bugis inscription Buginese headwear Ear ornaments from South Sulawesi Gold bracelet from Luwu Gold filigree bracelet from South Sulawesi Toraja ceremonial sarita cloths Toraja bead kandaure Toraja bead necklace Head ornament from Central Sulawesi Buffalo figurine from Central Sulawesi Banana fibre textiles of the Sangihe and Talaud Islands


272 274 280 282 288 290

Nusa Tenggara Betel pounders with carved hilts Gold jewellery from Sumba Turtleshell comb from Sumba Ikat textiles from Sumba A man’s cloth from Roti Beaded betel bags from Timor

292 294

Moluccas The old master So Cornelis: an ancestor statue from Tanimbar Jewellery from Maluku Tenggara: symbols of victory

308 310

Papua Ancestor figure from Northwest Papua Accoutrements for an Asmat man

312

Map of Indonesia

314 325 334

Notes Bibliography Authors


Preface It is best to tell the history of a museum through the important events that have touched it. Defining moments, that often only afterwards are recognized as such. That the gift of Frits Liefkes’ collection of Indonesian art and the bequest that accompanied it deserves a place in the history of Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde was immediately evident to us at the time. On account of the quality, size, and breadth of the collection, of course. And because Frits Liefkes stipulated, in relation to the gift, that pieces of lesser quality could be sold and the proceeds used to strengthen our Indonesia collection. There came, over and above that, a substantial bequest, in part the result of the sale of his house. An unbelievable gift, that will live on in Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde through the acquisitions that it makes possible. That the gift arrived at an exceptional moment will also play a role in its historic significance. For just at the time when the museum had to convincingly demonstrate that it had at its disposal sufficient income of its own, this generous bequest was most welcome.

To present this beautiful collection, there is an exhibition and this book. Frits Liefkes knew as none other that a collection is to be looked at, to be enjoyed. That is what drove his collecting passion. And now you and I can also see what he had collected around himself in his home during all these years. We look as it were through his eyes, an enriching experience. When the exhibition is over, the book will still remain. And that also can be seen as historic. For the book presents the first specific collection in a new Collection Series of Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, and so begins a series of publications in which the museum’s most important collections are described. I do not know what Frits Liefkes would have thought of the place in our history that we have here given to him. Unfortunately I never knew him. But I suspect that he would have said that it is now time to look at the beautiful objects that he left to us, so that we can enjoy and learn about his collection. That we can do thanks to the many people who have contributed to the making of this book and the exhibition that it accompanies.

Stijn Schoonderwoerd General Director Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde

9 | preface


Living with Indonesian Art

| 10


Frits Liefkes (1930-2010), in memoriam Wouter Kloek and Jan Veenendaal

1 | Frits Liefkes. Photograph by Fred Weegenaar, ca. 1985 2 | The sculpture Veilig in het verkeer (Safe in the traffic) by Dirk Wolbers (1890-1957).

Fritz Liefkes was born on 21 July 1930 in The Hague and died there on 20 March 2010 (ill. 1). Frits, as his friends and colleagues called him, was curator for furniture at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam from 1965 to 1987, but first and foremost he was a collector, a trait that served him well in the discharge of his professional duties. Frits lived his whole life in The Hague, for an important part together with his partner, the antique dealer Cor Weegenaar. In 1987 he became seriously ill, resulting in his taking early retirement. On his death, he bequeathed an important part of his collection to the Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology) in Leiden. Frits came from an artistic background. His father was a well-known stained glass artist who made glass windows and partitions for many churches and other buildings. Through the work of his father, he came at a young age in contact with artists. As a four-year old he was the model for the young boy in the sculptural group, a mother and her children, by Dirk Wolbers (1890-1957). This sculpture Veilig in het verkeer (Safe in the traffic) stood since 1937 on the Conradbrug (Conrad Bridge) on the Laan van Meerdervoort in The Hague (ill. 2). Later his portrait was drawn by HenriĂŤtte van Lent-Gort (ill. 3), an accomplished artist who had worked in Sumatra for eight years and there made a variety of fine drawings of Indonesian peoples. Frits went to secondary school at the Gymnasium Haganum. There he was confronted with the fact that his father was no academic, which led to the feeling that he did not really belong there. Just ten when the war started, the war years were an even more difficult time for him, as he gradually was more and more confronted with the fact that his father was German. As a result of this, during the war and especially after it, the Liefkes family faced great problems. During these same years he came to realize that his nature was other than that of most boys. There is no doubt that Frits must have had a complicated youth. In the post-war years tens of thousands of people came from Indonesia to the

11 | Frits Liefkes and his collection

Netherlands. For most of them this was their first acquaintance with Holland. Frits made friends among this group, largely because they did not judge him on the issues mentioned above. For him, Indonesian culture was completely strange, but through these contacts his interest in it was awakened. At that time he received from his father his first carvings, which are now in the Leiden museum. After he left school he studied art history, which he very nearly completed. Through his friendship with Cor Weegenaar he became steadily more involved with Cor’s flourishing antique business. Frits was then predominantly interested in European art, and bought, among other items, a superb South Italian vase and a


3 | Painting of Frits aged about 12, by HenriĂŤtte Johanna van Lent-Gort (1890-1977).

Living with Indonesian Art

| 12


4 | Male figure, portrait bust of an unknown man (1646), terracotta, by Servaes Cardon.

sculpture by Cardon (ill. 4). At an auction in Germany, he and Cor bought several pieces of furniture that once belonged to Princess Marie, granddaughter of King Willem I. Frits kept the finest pieces. On his death, the Italian vase was bequeathed to the National Museum of Antiquities. The furniture was sold at auction by Christie’s Amsterdam. When he took up his curatorship at the Rijksmuseum he was no longer in the position to collect or deal in European art. Very soon after his appointment he threw himself with much dedication into collecting batik. Who writes survives, is for many an important saying, but not for Frits. He wrote in fact very little. Even so, his value for the

13 | Frits Liefkes and his collection

Rijksmuseum was not insignificant. As a born collector he loved buying and the daily care of the collection. He was almost never to be found in his room, a large L-shaped space in the attic of the villa, the former director’s residence which after the war became the offices for director and curatorial staff. He came there just to drop off his bag and pick it up again before returning in the evening to The Hague. Sometimes he sought a moment of rest there, take a touch of snuff from a little silver container, or, especially in his later years at the museum, an afternoon nap. The arrangement of his room (with only sloping roof-panels), though, had a number of striking aspects. In the first place, there was a large Male Nude by Toon Kelder, a dark sketch of a male torso on a panel that he had once found in a rubbish bin in The Hague. And secondly there hung there a blown-up photograph showing an overview of the Papoea-kunst (Papuan art) exhibition which was held in 1966 in the unfinished building on the eastern inner courtyard (ill. 5).1 The construction work there had been suspended for some time and the director Arthur van Schendel thought an overview exhibition of New Guinea art would fit nicely in the concrete structure of that space. Frits had mounted the exhibition – it was one of his first tasks at the Rijksmuseum – together with the permanent museum architect at that time, Dick Elffers. The somewhat faded but still always impressive photograph of the enormous bis poles from New Guinea in those hulk-like surroundings held for him pleasing memories. It was at that moment in time that his interest in the art of the Indonesian archipelago began to take real form and he became a collector. In Indonesia, the United States and Germany there had sprung up a growing group of collectors of batik. The increasing prices associated with this development meant that many batik cloths from Dutch families with Indies connections came onto the market. Frits made one of his most important purchases at that time. Joachim Hurwitz, former director of the Museum voor Land- en Volkenkunde (Museum of Ethnology) in Rotterdam, now


the Wereldmuseum (Worldmuseum), offered to sell his private collection. This batik collection was of the highest quality and in exceptionally fine condition. Frits had to dig deep in his pockets and without the help of Cor Weegenaar it would not have happened.

Subsequently an interest in jewellery developed. He appreciated the ethnographic gold and other kinds of Indonesian jewellery not only for their startling designs, but even more so for the beautiful combination of person and jewellery. He would look with

Living with Indonesian Art

| 14


5 | View of the exhibition of New Guinea art, Rijksmuseum 1966. Rijksmuseum neg. nr. F 846-2

pleasure in books with photographs of men and women wearing this jewellery. His collection served as a means by which to recall these images. As buyer, for that was what he was, Frits had real significance for the Rijksmuseum. On his appointment he let it be known that he wished to expand the collection with nineteenth and twentieth century furniture, and with colonial furniture.2 He purchased not only a number of exceptional masterpieces – among them, the splendid pearl-inlaid chest that in the meantime has been attributed to Rembrandt’s good friend Herman Doomer, and a table designed by Piranesi3 – but he acquired above all an important collection of twentieth century furniture that in 2010 was the pride of the exhibition Art Nouveau in the Rijksmuseum held at the Singer Museum in Laren.4 The turning point in the acquisition policy was the acquisition of part of the interior of the house of Mr. Th.G. Dentz van Schaick on the Frederiksplein in Amsterdam, that had to make way for the Nederlandse Bank building. The exhibition in 1972 built around this purchase, Art nouveau, Jugendstil, Nieuwe kunst, set the new tone.5 In a joint effort with Bram den Blaauwen, head of the Sculpture and Decorative Arts division, not only was the then operative limit of 1830 passed, but above all the magical limit of 1900 which was in practice the current end date for the collection. It is an impressive collection of furniture, for an important part on order of the firm Van Wisselingh, designed by Berlage, Lion Cachet and Nieuwenhuis, by Jac. van den Bosch, De Klerk and Wouda. Who doesn’t write, doesn’t survive.6 In the years preceding 1984 Frits was part of a small research team that worked on the exhibition Prijst de lijst (Praise the frame).7 The idea of Pieter van Thiel who led the research was that frames and paintings formed integral wholes, and so the team was on the lookout for paintings still in their original frames. As curator of furniture, Frits was the ideal man to be present at inspection of a work in order to judge whether painting and frame were an original combination and whether the construction was indeed seventeenth century

15 | Frits Liefkes and his collection

work. The making of this exhibition was to a large extent due to the judgements that Frits made on numerous visits to museums, city halls and hofjes, where paintings often had to be taken down from walls in order to find out whether frames were original constructions. Frits’s expertise was exploited to the full. When it came to the writing Frits was nowhere to be found. And as a result his name gets no more than a brief mention in the acknowledgements. Finally, Frits had a great love for art works from the former Netherlands Indies. For years he involved himself energetically with the socalled Koloniale zaal (Colonial Room) in the Rijksmuseum, whose first interior design dated from 1972, with objects from colonial history of the Netherlands in the Far East, particularly the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Originally there were numerous loans from the Stichting Cultuurgeschiedenis van Nederlanders Overzee (Foundation for the Cultural History of Netherlanders Overseas) objects that on the dissolution of the foundation in 1994 were acquired by the Rijksmuseum.8 In May 1979 Frits made a trip to Indonesia, during which he was able to acquire a number of pieces of furniture dating from the colonial period.9 After his successful liver transplant operation, in the years of his retirement, Frits shifted his attention to Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology) in Leiden. He arranged to bequeath to that institution almost one thousand objects, including his important collection of ornamented gold objects. The proceeds from the sale of other parts of the collection which he together with Cor Weegenaar had assembled was made into a fund to promote the studying and cataloguing of the objects of Indonesian origin that made up the bequest to the Leiden museum.10 So, to adapt the saying: Who gives survives. Frits did not forget the Rijksmuseum, however. From his estate, the Rijksmuseum received a number of works of art, among them the Male figure by the Antwerp sculptor Servaes Cardon dating from 1646.11


Living with Indonesian Art

| 16


The attraction of collecting: Frits Liefkes as collector Pieter ter Keurs

6 | A showcase with gold objects in the house of Frits Liefkes. Photograph by F. Brinkgreve, 2010

Entering Frits Liefkes’ house in The Hague immediately impressed the visitor. It was clear that this was a house of a collector, but it was not entirely clear what type of collector. There were certainly many objects in his house, but in the hall and the first room his preference for Indonesian art was not apparent. It was mostly in the large room at the back of the house, the room where Liefkes spent most of his time, but also upstairs in his study and even his bedroom, that his preference for Indonesian art became clear. There were objects from the whole archipelago, ranging from Bali to Nias and from Maluku to North Sumatra. When asked what his criteria were for collecting, he usually reacted as if this was a nonsensical question. He just collected what he found beautiful. Any other reason was a rationalization of his main drive: to surround himself with beautiful things. Before coming back to Liefkes as a collector I would like to pay some attention to collecting as a process with both socio-cultural as well as very individualistic, psychological, incentives and consequences. This exercise will enable us to place Frits Liefkes in a wider context. It particularly offers us a focus on the crucial, but sensitive, relationship between the individual and society. There may be a ground for describing collecting as an expression of a collector’s feeling of uneasiness about his or her relationship with a hostile, outside world. Collecting is as old as humanity. In biblical terms Noah is the first collector and the most complete one.1 He collected every species available to make sure that the world could be recreated after the flood. This idea of completeness is important for most collectors, although most of them also realize that completeness is impossible to achieve. Very often, however, collectors justify a purchase by saying that they do not own such an object yet. So, it really adds to the collection a new form, a new idea, a new item. Even when a collector collects series of similar objects there is always the small detail in which an object differs from the ones already in the collection. In that

17 | Frits Liefkes and his collection

sense, a collection is never complete and the urge to collect further never stops. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries completeness was an important issue in the collecting activities of states, museums and learned societies. The historian James Sheehan described this situation as follows: Like the eighteenth century, the nineteenth was an age of collections, encyclopaedias, and dictionaries, which sought to bring together and classify knowledge of all sorts. … People in the nineteenth century wanted to chart every inlet, assemble every ancient text, create grammars for every language, identify every species, explore every corner of the earth. … Museum directors wanted to display a representative work by every great artist, zookeepers hoped to have every animal no matter how exotic, botanists every plant.2 The fact that it concerned ‘a systematic study of the world’ is an important observation in this citation. Collecting is often done to obtain more knowledge and in addition more control over the outside world, the world outside the individual who is trying somehow to get to terms with the chaotic, and sometimes hostile, world around him (or her). This aspect of obtaining knowledge and controlling the world was evidently present in colonial collecting. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the ways in which ethnographic collections were obtained were often related to scholarly interests and scientific expeditions, which in their turn were never far removed from political interests. During the project Shared Cultural Heritage (a cooperation between the National Museum of Indonesia and the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, in the period 2004-2007) several types of collecting contexts were distinguished.3 Scientific collecting was one of them and in all the examples we studied it was clear that classifying material culture and obtaining knowledge of cultures (sometimes directly for political purposes) were often one and the same thing. Reality had to be


7-10 | Interior of the house of Frits Liefkes. Photographs by Ingrid Gerritsen, 2010


structured before one could grasp some of its complexity. The process of classification started in the field, by labelling and describing, but was completed in the museum by including the objects in scholarly acceptable systems of classification. The Leiden Museum of Ethnology offers some good examples of this urge to classify in order to structure reality. Already in the mid-nineteenth century Von Siebold, the first director, had intensive discussions with the French scholar Jomard about which system of classification would be the best to use in an ethnographic museum. Lindor Serrurier, director at the end of the nineteenth century, developed a classification that was later to be used as basic system for the impressive Juynboll catalogue, in which the entire Indonesian collection of the museum is described. In fact, the present-day classification of the digital database is not fundamentally different from classifications developed in the nineteenth century. The aim of classifying things also has not changed: to bring order into chaos. Apart from a scientific interest in collecting to obtain knowledge, other types of collecting can be distinguished as well. A large part of the museum collections was brought together for the purpose of colonial exhibitions. After the first Universal Exhibition in 1851, in Crystal Palace in London, many more World, or Universal, Exhibitions were organised. Particularly colonial empires, or ‘would-be’ empires competed to organise the largest or most spectacular events. The many large-scale French exhibitions are good examples of glorifying the state and modernity, culminating in that of 1889 (the centennial of the French Revolution) with the construction of the Eiffel Tower. The Netherlands also joined the international competition by organising the large-scale Colonial and Trade Exhibition in Amsterdam, in 1883. The objects especially collected for the exhibitions (many entered the Leiden museum) were meant to illustrate national prestige and to present the potential of the new colonial markets, although they also helped to structure the unknown, newly discovered ‘non-western’ world. However, collecting for Universal Exhibitions was clearly

done for political and economic reasons, scientific interests were not the main priority. Collecting in a military context was again a different issue. As far as we know, collecting artefacts was never the reason to go to war in the Dutch colonial empire. In that sense collecting was something that was done on the side, or that offered itself accidentally as an opportunity. Sometimes, such as during the Lombok (1894) and Bali wars (1906-1908), the military did expect to find valuable objects in the palaces of the kings they defeated and they therefore accepted scholars to join them in the field. This is why L.J.A. Brandes, attached to the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences, could quickly identify the importance of objects and manuscripts. He was present in the field. Classification and documentation were however not the main priorities for the military and although military expeditions added greatly to our knowledge of the areas conquered, the collecting activities were certainly not systematic. Nevertheless, although collecting artefacts was not the main aim of the military, the handover of the regalia from the local rulers to the conquerors was symbolically very important. It provided institutions such as the Museum of the Batavian Society and the National Museum of Ethnology with some exquisite pieces. As a fourth category of colonial collecting I would like to mention individual people who were, although working in a colonial context, often searching for objects without any direct political purpose outside individual interests. These people were fascinated by local arts and crafts, often in connection with a certain sympathy for the local people, and wanted to obtain nice and beautiful things. A good example, and there are many more, is Th.A. Resink who was born in 1902 in Yogyakarta, educated in the Netherlands and worked as a civil engineer in the Netherlands East Indies.4 In 1957 Resink returned to the Netherlands and after his death in 1971 his private collection was sold to the museum in Leiden. For museums as well as for individual collectors the urge to bring order into chaos is comparable. Walter Benjamin wrote in 1931 a thought-provoking article on unpacking his

Living with Indonesian Art

| 20


collection of books. One of his introductory remarks is: ‘… there is in the life of a collector a dialectical tension between the poles of disorder and order’.5 Benjamin knew what he was talking about. For him, unpacking his collection of books was a special moment of bringing order in the disorder of his own life. For a long time he did not have a fixed place to live and he often depended on friends who offered him a place to stay for some time.6 The rare moments of peace and sedentary life gave Benjamin the possibility to unpack his book collection, which was usually stored in boxes and crates. This way he brought a new order in his living environment and in addition pondered on what collecting actually is. For ‘what I am really concerned with is giving you some insight into the relationship of a book collector to his possessions, into collecting rather than a collection’.7 He considered collecting to be a process of renewal. ‘To renew the old world that is the collector’s deepest desire when he is driven to acquire new things,…’.8 I think this also refers to the type of collector Liefkes was. Frits Liefkes was not a typical classifier. He did not give priority to labelling and documenting his collection. As I mentioned earlier Liefkes was foremost interested in things that he judged as beautiful and he fits well in the fourth category of the individual, passionate collector. His aesthetic taste was his main criterion. Although Liefkes was not a classifier in the scholarly sense of the term, he was however someone who wanted to create his own ideal environment as opposed to a hostile outside world. He created his own world of beauty as opposed to, and as protection against, the ugliness of the world around him. In practice this once even resulted in a fierce struggle with burglars, a shocking experience for him. In later years when he had decided to bequeath his collection to the museum in Leiden, he also considered the future home of his collection as a context for his collecting activities. When he considered buying an object, he regularly phoned to ask whether the museum already had such an object, whether it was to be an addition to the collection or not. He immensely enjoyed this process of judging,

21 | Frits Liefkes and his collection

of arguing, of deciding whether or not an object should be acquired. For him the process of collecting may have been as important as finally possessing the object. The process of aesthetic judgement and finally buying an object was part of Frits Liefkes. Here too, Walter Benjamin makes an important remark: ‘… the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner’.9 Indeed, with Frits Liefkes no longer here with us, the passion for, and attraction of, collecting related to his person is gone for ever. His collection, however, remains witness to a life full of contradictions, but also a life full of beauty.


The Frits Liefkes collection in Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde Francine Brinkgreve

From Liefkes to Leiden The collection of Frits Liefkes is a valuable addition to the Indonesia collection in Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology) in Leiden. Together with the Museum Nasional Indonesia in Jakarta, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde holds the oldest Indonesian collections in the world. A large part of the 60,000 Indonesian objects in this museum was collected in the colonial past, and their provenance and collection history is well documented. In contrast, Frits Liefkes bought all his objects from art dealers and at auctions, mainly in the Netherlands, between 1970 and 2010, and he left very little documentation. Still, his collection reflects not only the personal taste of a passionate lover of Indonesian arts and crafts, but also his good eye for quality and craftsmanship, having been a museum curator himself, trained in art history. The Liefkes collection consists of almost 1000 objects, originating from most parts of the archipelago, from Aceh (Sumatra) in the west to the Asmat area (Papua) in the east. A few of these objects date from prehistoric times or from the (proto)classic period of Indonesian art history, but by far the majority can only be provisionally dated probably to the late nineteenth or twentieth century. Of many objects there are already similar examples in the museum collection, but Liefkes did possess some rare objects and various unique pieces which are very valuable additions, especially in the fields of batik, furniture and gold. Frits Liefkes was fond of textiles, and with more than 400 pieces they form the single largest category of objects in his collection. His batiks are especially valuable. Precious gilded batik prada from Java’s north coast are new in our collection, because our old batik collections, acquired in the nineteenth century, consists mainly of batiks from Central Java and they are not gilded. Having been a curator of furniture, Frits Liefkes was interested in Indonesian furniture as well and he collected a unique set of a table

and two chairs from Bali and a circumcision chair from Java, items not already present in the collection. The beauty of Indonesian gold objects did not escape his eye, either. A beautiful golden betel set from Madura, and a unique golden container with lid from Sulawesi form spectacular new additions to our collection. Until now, the museum only had pieces from kingdoms and sultanates which were collected in the colonial period as war booty (for example from Lombok and Bali), or sold to civil servants by impoverished aristocrats (like Acehnese jewellery), or given as ‘diplomatic’ gifts from Indonesian rulers to officers of the colonial government (for instance many keris from Java).1 However, Liefkes collected gold jewellery which only came on the market since the 1970s, from Nias, Sulawesi, Sumba and the Moluccas. Some of these gold pieces (a headdress from Nias and jewellery from Sumba) have been exhibited and published before.2 The 185 pieces presented in this catalogue are representative of the Liefkes collection as a whole. Although the selection reflects the variety of objects, textiles, especially those from different regions in Sumatra, form an important part of the book. Seventy-five stories providing different layers of cultural context give an impression of the former lives of all these beautiful things, made, owned and used in Indonesia before they entered the house of Frits Liefkes and his partner Cor Weegenaar in The Hague and finally became part of the Indonesia collections in the museum in Leiden. Made in Indonesia Drawn in wax, forged in fire, cut from wood, using imported materials or the products of their local soil, almost all of Frits Liefkes’ thousand objects were made in Indonesia, by skilled artists and craftsmen from the many different ethnic groups in the archipelago. Indonesia lies on one of the world’s greatest trade routes, the maritime route linking China

Living with Indonesian Art

| 22


11 | Knight from a chess set Origin and dating uncertain Gold 3.4 x 8.2 cm Liefkes 347

in the east to India, the Middle East and Europe in the west. For two thousand years and more, the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago have actively engaged in this trade. They integrated within their own cultures the varied influences that reached their shores from overseas, from the early Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms and from later Islamic sultanates, from as far east as China and as far west as Europe, especially the Netherlands. As a result of trade contacts, travelling craftsmen were responsible for the steady intermixing of cultures. Many of the objects in the Liefkes collection reflect these cultural influences, merged with local traditions, in materials and techniques, function and use and meaning of the decorative motifs. To give just a few examples: A precious golden knight from a chess set (ill. 11), of unknown provenance but clearly made for European (Portuguese?) use, is crafted using very fine filigree and granulation techniques which were probably introduced to Indonesia in conjunction with the rise of Islam, by goldsmiths from the Ottoman Sultanate. Within Indonesia there was mutual influence between goldsmiths from Sulawesi and those from Minangkabau and Aceh in Sumatra, so this object could have been made in any of these areas. A large textile (ill. 12), probably made by Malay coastal people, showing materials and techniques used by Muslim cultures overseas, with European crowns as decorative motif, might well have been used as decoration of ritual space at a traditional tiwah ceremony (secondary death ritual) of non-Muslim Ngaju Dayak in inland Kalimantan, as can be seen in the use of a similar piece in a similar context in the catalogue entry on the Brunei gong (ill. 262). Another textile (ill. 13) is made of Chinese silk fabric, with batik motifs applied in Cirebon (Java), and gold-dust patterns probably done in Sumatra, to be used as an Islamic woman’s headscarf. The motifs show the typical Javanese pattern of alas-alasan, in

23 | Frits Liefkes and his collection


12 | Decorative cloth used as wall hanging Coastal Kalimantan or Sumatra? 19th century? Silk, gold thread, gold paper, sequins, beads 407 x 67 cm Liefkes 832

which a variety of forest creatures are depicted to symbolize life in the universe. Numerous other stories in this catalogue touch upon the theme of cultural influences from abroad, although the objects themselves were all made in Indonesia. To give a few examples from the catalogue: a text in Arabic on a Sumatran knife; Chinese motifs on silver jewellery; the motif of the India-derived singa (lion) on Batak and Balinese objects; and Dutch heraldic emblems on textiles from Sumba and Sulawesi. Adornment of people and space Although his collection of Indonesian objects covers a wide range of Indonesian material culture, from batik to wayang, from keris to shield, from ancestor statue to palace sculpture, the main accents in his collection, precious textiles and jewellery, reveal the dominant interest and passion of Frits Liefkes as collector. Apart from his eye for good craftsmanship, Liefkes was very interested in the theme of

“Man as Art�.3 Apparently he often collected a textile, or a piece of jewellery, or another kind of accessory with the beautiful person wearing it in mind. He not only collected cloths used as clothing, wrapped around different parts of the bodies of men and women (as hip cloth, shoulder cloth, head cloth), but pieces of sewn clothing, shoes, jewellery, and other accessories like belts with buckles, pins and buttons as well. He did not restrict himself to body ornaments made of gold and silver, but also collected jewellery fashioned from ivory, wood, hornbill, beads, feathers and shells. Also decorated weapons such as two Balinese keris, a Papuan dagger (ase pisua) and a Kalimantan knife (mandau), and beautifully plaited and beaded betel boxes and bags in the collection can be regarded as part of the adornment of Indonesian men and women. Dress, jewellery and accessories make people more beautiful, but also provide meaning by stressing identity, gender, status and position in society. Many categories of people are represented in the Liefkes collection; for

Living with Indonesian Art

| 24


instance, he not only collected a golden headdress for a Balinese female dancer, but also for a Nias female priest; not only a beaded sun hat for a Kenyah man, but also headwear for a Bugis nobleman, made of fine lontar and precious stones. Many more examples are to be found in this catalogue. Especially in the more hierarchical ordered societies in Indonesia, costumes and jewellery worn by brides and grooms on their wedding day have a “royal� connotation, since the couples are treated as queens and kings for this special day (raja sehari). Another aspect of the theme of man and adornment is the fact that in many Indonesian societies locally woven textiles and metal jewellery are exchanged as marital gifts, and classified as respectively female and male objects. Examples in the collection are the famous golden mamuli and textiles from Sumba in East Indonesia, but one finds the same principles in Minangkabau culture and society in West Sumatra. As a collector living with and amongst his

25 | Frits Liefkes and his collection

treasures, Frits Liefkes collected not only objects related to the adornment of men and women, but also many objects related to the adornment of the living space or environment of the Indonesian peoples who owned these objects before him. Chests and cupboards from Palembang and Java, tables and chairs from Bali and Java, carved doors from Kalimantan and Bali, a beaded wall hanging from Lampung, decorated posts and keris stands from Bali, and plenty of household objects such as bowls and kendi and betel sets from all over the archipelago, often beautifully decorated and made from precious materials, decorated his own living space and environment as well. Some of the statues that decorated his rooms, like those from Nias and Bali, showed their cultural identity by their carved and painted clothing and jewellery. But Frits Liefkes himself also liked to dress up his statues with textiles, necklaces and bracelets and, in the case of a small ivory statue from Tanimbar, with small feathers. And not unlike


the case in Indonesia, where objects often change hands, Liefkes not only lived with his objects but was also actively engaged with them. He bought, sold, exchanged them with friends, loved them to be admired by colleagues, and celebrated his victory when he had succeeded at auction. Continuity of life Although at first sight one category of objects often encountered in a museum collection of Indonesian material culture, objects related to ritual and religion, are not very visible in the collection of Frits Liefkes, the theme of man and adornment incorporates this other layer of cultural significance as well. Not only some beautiful ancestor statues (such as a korwar from north coast Papua), priest’s implements (like a Batak medicine horn) and statues for religious occasions in Bali are part of the Liefkes collection, but many textiles, pieces of jewellery or furniture also had ritual purposes. Special clothing and jewellery can only be worn for special ceremonies like weddings, many textiles are used in death rituals as ceremonial shrouds, and many other objects and textiles can be used to decorate ritual space. Examples in the catalogue are a temple flag (umbul-umbul) from Bali, spectacular sarita textiles and beaded kandaure from Tana Toraja (Sulawesi), and famous tampan and palepai cloths from Lampung, to mention just a few. Also betel sets, so important in social life and for individual well-being, definitely have a ritual function as well, since sirih-pinang is often related to the ancestors, or used in offerings and ritual meals. Individuals are not only members of their own families and local communities, but also of a kind of wider, cosmic community, which includes ancestors, deities and demons and mythical creatures. In fact, the cycle of life, of individuals and communities, is also one of the leading themes of the Liefkes collection. The concept of the continuity of life, sometimes through death and destruction, can often be read in the objects, since their motifs and colours carry messages about fertility and protection. Ancestor statues from Nias and Tanimbar

embody the idea which occurs in many places in Indonesia, that the living are protected by their ancestors whose spirits live on after death and who act as mediators between heaven and earth. In Kalimantan, the life of a small child, held in a baby carrier, is protected by demonic faces carved on the back of the object. In Bali the powerful Garuda bird protects the wearer of a crown from the back. Many types of jewellery, like bracelets, rings and necklaces, are part of men’s and women’s adornment and convey messages about status and identity, but have a protective function as well. The decorative motifs on many objects have a connection with this theme of the continuity of life of humans, animals and plants, under the cosmic influence of sun and moon. Good examples are the many different motifs on batik cloths from Java and woven textiles from Sumatra and Sumba, the symbols on the sarita cloths from Sulawesi, and the ancestor figures on the beaded clothing from Kalimantan. Trees of life occur on the Javanese wayang lamp and circumcision chair, but also on the tampan textiles from Lampung. Fertility and protection, empowered in important birds, serpents and other animals, are in Bali and Java expressed by Garuda and naga, in Kalimantan by hornbill and dragon, among the Batak by the singa figure, and in East Indonesia by the symbol of the rooster. Because they are handed down by the ancestors, in many parts of Indonesia precious heirlooms protect their descendants, ensuring the perpetuity of the group. They are stored away, high in the upper part of the family houses, their stories being part of their power. Three years ago, in March 2010, on the death of Frits Liefkes, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde received all his precious heirlooms from Indonesia, many of which he had really lived with, but part of which he had kept safely upstairs, on the top floors, not unlike the situation in a traditional Indonesian lineage house. And already once, when in 2011 the museum’s very survival was threatened, this beautiful collection has contributed to the continuity of Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde. The name of Frits Liefkes himself will live on thanks to his collection and this present

Living with Indonesian Art

| 26


publication. Because he left his private collection to a public institution, Frits Liefkes not only contributed to safe-guarding important Indonesian cultural heritage, but also made it possible for everyone to enjoy all these beautiful precious objects.

27 | Frits Liefkes and his collection

13 | Sumatran Islamic woman’s headscarf Java, Cirebon (batik); Sumatra (gilding) 1875-1900 Silk fabric, natural dyes, prada 280 x 56 cm Liefkes 798


Acehnese gold jewellery According to legend, the Acehnese learned their goldsmithing craft from the Arabs. From the earliest times extensive trading routes linked Aceh with the Malay Peninsula, Java, Arabia and China. All of these cultural influences had a strong impact on the jewellery. Acehnese goldsmiths, famed for their technical skill, mainly executed work for sultans, dignitaries and people of standing. In the heyday of Aceh, during the reign of Sultan Iskandar Muda (1607-1636), no less than 300 gold- and silversmiths were employed making valuables for his court and the elite.1 In the beginning of the twentieth century more and more Chinese goldsmiths were taking over.

Ear ornaments / subang In daily life in Aceh formerly, girls as well as married women wore subang made of gold, gilded silver, horn, wood or ivory. During festivities and especially during weddings the nobility would wear a full attire of gold jewellery, displaying their wealth.2 People in less favourable circumstances either borrowed or rented the jewellery required. Subang of noblewomen were little masterpieces, requiring a multitude of techniques (ill. 14). Delicate Ă jour work, alternating with fine filigree and granulation formed an intricate floral pattern on the concave front disc. Popular stones for decorating subang were diamonds, moonstones, chrysolites, rubies, and pearls. These stones, in contrast to western standards, were not chosen for their purity, but rather for their symbolic and magical qualities.3 Diamonds, imported from Borneo, were either rose-cut or cut irregularly to minimize loss of stone. Another way of enhancing the effect of colour was the use of enamel. The art of enamelling (cawardi) was characteristic for

Living with Indonesian Art

| 28


Acehnese jewellery and was seldom used in other parts of Indonesia. Presumably learned from Chinese goldsmiths,4 the technique may also have derived from India where superb enamel work was produced. Even the back of the subang was decorated with beautifully worked lozenges on the rim of a wide cylinder. When still young, girls started slowly stretching their earlobes in order to insert the cylinder of the subang that could reach a diameter of 3 cm. Apparently this custom declined in the course of the twentieth century when young girls started wearing ear ornaments requiring smaller holes.5 Another characteristic technique was the art of colouring the gold (seupoh). The Acehnese, like many other peoples in Indonesia, have a special fondness for a specific red shine on the gold. Originally the technique involved an elaborate process of treating the gold repeatedly with acid substances (nitre, salt and alum) to extract the silver from the surface in order for the gold to become red. The Chinese had an alternative way of painting the gold with red pigment.6 One should note a

14 a-c | Three ear ornaments / subang Aceh 19th-20th century Gold, enamel, precious stones 5.8 x 1.9 cm (14 a), 4.2 x 1.7 cm (14 b), 4.2 x 1.8 cm (14 c) Liefkes 340, 341, 342

29 | Sumatra

15 | Studio portrait of an Acehnese aristocrat with a young woman wearing ear ornaments and a girdle. Photograph by C.B. Nieuwenhuis, 1880-1908 RMV A78-94


16 | Girdle / talòë ki iëng Aceh 19th-20th century Silver, gold 79 x 4.9 cm Liefkes 360

distinction between suasa, which is an alloy of gold and copper (also used frequently by the Acehnese) and the art of colouring the gold where the red colour is caused by a chemical reaction, always executed as the last finishing technique. Due to the influence of Islam, goldsmith work was restricted to conventional floral and foliated patterns and designs. Each subang had its own unique identity through its use of particular motifs. While the subang meucintra had the shape of a sunflower, set with stones in circles, the subang bungong, much smaller in size, resembled the shape of a jasmine (melati) flower with one stone in the middle.7 Not only was gold itself highly symbolic, the designs also conveyed specific meanings. Even little details carried symbolic names; besides all

sorts of flowers and leaves, repeating abstract motifs had intriguing names such as the “eyes of a locust”, “droppings of a turtledove” and the “malformed footprints of a bastard child”.8 Girdle / talòë ki iëng Along with a bracelet and a ring, the girdle belonged to the three traditional gifts given by the husband to his wife after she had sacrificed her virginity (ill. 15). Depending on the status of the husband the belt was made of gold or silver, or a combination of both metals. These gifts became the property of the wife. All other jewellery that she received on the seventh day after marriage was considered the property of her husband.9 This particular girdle (ill. 16) is a beautiful example and most probably belonged to a

Living with Indonesian Art

| 30


wealthy woman. Its central gold piece exhibits an unusual geometrical surface division which is executed in fine filigree and granulation. Interestingly, the same intricate form is accurately cut out of a piece of lime (bòh giri) given as part of an offering to the couple after they become engaged.10 Surrounded by floral designs four conical ornaments extend outwards from the central lozenges. Tapering in sharp points, these ornaments are identical to the bòh doma, a typical Acehnese decorative gold button, worn by both men and women. Its base consists of rows of round or facetted granules. On both sides of the gold centrepiece are two tubes of small interwoven silver links that resemble the fruits of a type of marsh plant (bòh eumpeuë). These inflexible parts change into strands of silver chains. The latter

31 | Sumatra

are held together by a clasp that is prominently used in Sumatra and Java for necklaces and belts. They can either be plain or richly decorated with filigree and stones. The boldness of the silver chain and the delicateness of the centrepiece give this girdle a stark and pleasing contrast. Maggie de Moor


Silk textiles of Aceh

17 a-b | Man’s hip cloth / ija pinggang meukathab Aceh, Sumatra Ca. 1900 Silk, gold thread, natural dyes Plain weave, supplementary weft weave 87 x 198 cm Liefkes 747 18 a-b | Man’s hip cloth / ija pinggang plang meukathab Aceh, Sumatra Ca. 1900 Silk, gold thread, natural dyes Plain weave, warp ikat, supplementary weft weave 83.5 x 190 cm Liefkes 731

Situated at the crossroads of international trade routes, Aceh has been influenced by many religions and cultures. Buddhist, Islamic, Chinese, Persian, Indian Moghul and even Turkish influences left their imprints on Acehnese art and culture. Traditional textiles and dress were imbued with new materials, colours, designs and motifs. All these novelties were at first meant mainly for sultans and their relatives, courtiers, regional rulers and religious leaders living in the coastal areas. The golden age for the crafts of Aceh reached its peak in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The culture at court was lavish and by embracing Islam, Muslim art and architecture were introduced in Aceh. Court dress was copied from the Moghul empire. New forms of clothing were introduced, tailormade clothes such as trousers for women and tunics instead of wrap-around cloths. Yellow became the royal colour and green was associated with Islam. Gold threaded cloth was considered appropriate for the sultan and the aristocracy. In the motifs depiction of human figures is not present; only geometric forms are shown. Traditional dress for Acehnese men and women consists of a shoulder cloth (ija sawa) worn over a blouse or tunic (bajèë), and a hip cloth (ija pinggang or ija lunggi) draped over wide trousers (sileuë inong) (ill. 20).1 Silk is the material of choice. Only in Aceh and Sulawesi are trousers worn by women. Their pants are of a plain purple silk (lambajong), or decorated with supplementary gold thread. Women’s trousers may be embroidered along the inside of the legs from the low cut crutch (thong) towards the ankles in a fine arrangement of motifs in gold thread on a purple silk ground. Men’s trousers are plain or decorated with ikat motifs. According to Muslim rules dictating covering up the crotch, the ija pinggang is folded over the upper part of the wide trousers. Young girls start to wear a hip cloth when they reach the age of about nine. These three silk hip cloths from the Liefkes collection illustrate three different types distinguished by techniques or combinations of techniques. They are woven in plain weave

Living with Indonesian Art

| 32


33 | Sumatra


with decorations in supplementary gold thread in the weft or ikat and stripes in the warp, or a combination of these. Cloths with fringes (rolled or unrolled) and small stripes are usually worn by men at ceremonial occasions (ill. 17). They are wrapped over the trousers around the hips, with the ends open down the body. Women’s cloths do not show fringes, because they are sewn together into a sarong. Women wear the dark purple ija lambajong and ija pinggang plang rusa with small arrow point motifs in yellow, black and white.2 Nineteenth century hip cloths are often woven with supplementary gold or silver thread in the weft and are called ija lunggi meukathab. Decorations may fill the complete surface or just the end borders, the uluéé. Both types were collected by Liefkes and are found in many museum collections. The ground weave is mainly composed of fine stripes or checks. The colour combinations are usually of sombre hues of purple and black or reddish brown, but can encompass subtle combinations of white, apple green and yellow. The surrounding nature is a source of inspiration for a weaver. Motifs of flowers,

Living with Indonesian Art

| 34


leaves and arabesques appear in a natural style but often also present are geometric patterns of stylised flowers and plants, spirals, and scrolls. To Mens Fiers Smeding, the motifs in Acehnese gold and silver cloths show Persian influences.3 In the two men’s hip cloths the flowers of the main pattern bear the name of plants: bunga campli, flower of the pepper; bunga awan, cloud flower (spirals or arabesques); or bunga tanjung. According to Jasper and Pirngadie, colour can also be an indication of a particular type of hip cloth. The green and purple hip cloth (ill. 17) could be an ija pinggang lada muda where lada muda refers to the young pepper plant, probably named after the light green colour of the background.4 The striped silk hip cloths, plang rusa, show rows of ikat motifs of chevrons in the warp. Ikat in the warp on silk is typical for Aceh, but unusual in Indonesia where silk ikat is normally only in the weft. Chevrons are the only ikat motifs found on Acehnese textiles. In two cloths (ill. 18 and 19) these pointed arrowlike designs, plang rusa in Acehnese, refer to deer’s spots (plang, spotted, rusa, deer).5 It probably refers to the spots that remained without colour after the ikatted cloth had been dyed by hand. The chevrons always point in one direction, unlike the cloths of the neighbouring provinces. They come in several colours (red, yellow and white) on a purple or dark red ground, or just black and white on a red ground (ill. 19). Ija pinggang plang rusa hip cloths are restricted to silk (ill. 19) or silk combined with gold, as in the ija pinggang plang meukathab (ill. 18). The latter is more costly because of the supplementary weft decorations with gold thread covering the centre field and the end borders in stylised floral and geometric motifs. These fine and subtle shining silk cloths were rare and only worn by the aristocracy as ceremonial clothing.6 According to Chinese Sung dynasty texts from the tenth and eleventh centuries, silk production and weaving were already carried out on a large scale in Aceh in the region of Pidie.7 Silk clothes were used for centuries, textiles for daily wear were imported from India. As trade goods Aceh silks were highly

35 | Sumatra

valued all over Sumatra. The Toba Batak esteemed especially the plang rusa cloths, which functioned as costly gifts to lineage chiefs, notably those featuring a white band along the selvage.8 Bits of these silk ikat cloths were even used to decorate old Batak textiles.9 The plang rusa motif has been adopted in Batak cotton textiles and especially in the ulos mangiring of the Toba Batak, used as a ceremonial baby-carrier, given to the granddaughter by her maternal grandparents at the birth of her first child.10 Linda Hanssen

19 a-b | Woman’s hip cloth (open) / ija pinggang plang rusa Aceh, Sumatra Ca. 1900 Silk, natural dyes Plain weave, warp ikat 72.5 x 159 cm Liefkes 1016 20 | Married Acehnese woman wearing an ija pinggang over her trousers (sileuë inong). Photograph by C.B. Nieuwenhuis, 1880-1908 RMV A78-95

Living with Indonesian Art  

This book is published in conjunction with the exhibition Een huis vol Indonesië: Het mooiste uit de collectie Liefkes, held at RijksmuseumV...

Living with Indonesian Art  

This book is published in conjunction with the exhibition Een huis vol Indonesië: Het mooiste uit de collectie Liefkes, held at RijksmuseumV...