Up until the 19th century, just before the invention of photography, the only way to show what people, landscapes and objects looked like was by painting, sketching or printing them. In the Netherlands many prints were published of their far east colonies, or nowadays, Indonesia.
“De Typen van Nederlandsch Oost-Indië” (Types of the Dutch East Indies) is a series of hand-finished antique lithograph prints by Auguste van Pers, made after drawings by the French artist, Ernest Hardouin.
Lithography, invented in 1796 by German playwright and actor Alois Senefelder, was a significant innovation in printing technology. The process involves creating an image on a flat surface (normally a plate), which is then inked and pressed onto a sheet of paper, later finished by hand colouring.
It allowed for the reproduction of images and text with much greater accuracy and detail than earlier printing methods such as woodblock or copperplate printing. It was widely used for commercial printing, especially for reproducing artwork, maps, and other images that required high levels of detail.
Here we feature two lithograph prints from this unique series which vary greatly in subject matter and capture in detail the clothing, hairstyles, and physical features of the Javanese people, providing a unique and valuable insight into the cultural diversity of the Dutch East Indies during the mid-1800s.
Auguste van Pers arrived in Indonesia early in 1837 and was employed as an engraver and draughtsman in the General Secretariat at Buitenzorg, known today as Bogor. Ernest Hardouin arrived in Indonesia in 1842 as a decor designer with a French theatrical troupe. In Batavia (modern day Jakarta) Hardouin made numerous sketches and drawings of the city and its inhabitants.
The series was announced as being in preparation in 1844, when some proof plates were printed but the work did not proceed. It was in the year 1853 that the Dutch printing publisher W.C. Mieling picked up the project again and the series came out in sets of 4 lithographs at a time.
As originally projected, the complete work would contain 80 plates, a figure that was never reached, and 56 prints are known to exist. Hardouin did not live to see the work published – he died in poverty in Batavia in 1853 or 1854.
Today, “De Typen van Nederlandsch Oost-Indië” remains an important historical document and a fascinating artistic representation of a unique time and place in history.
The 1st print titled “Javaansche Vrouwen Rijst-Stampende” depicts two Javanese women pounding rice in a large mortar and pestle. This image captures a common daily activity in Javanese society during the mid-19th century. The pounding of rice or “menumbuk padi,” was an important task that was typically carried out by women.
Rice holds a central place in Indonesian culture, it shapes the Indonesian landscapes and is served in most meals both as a savoury and a sweet food. Evidence of wild rice on the island of Sulawesi dates from 3000 BC. Early evidence of its cultivation comes from 8th century stone inscriptions from the island of Java, which shows kings levied taxes on rice.
The 2nd print titled “Javaan Kris Bereidende” depicts a Javanese man who is engaged in the traditional craft of making kris, or sometimes keris, which is a type of dagger or short sword that is native to Java and other parts of Indonesia.
In the print, the kris maker is shown sitting on a wooden platform with a small anvil and a variety of tools and materials around him.
The kris is an important cultural symbol in Javanese society and has long been associated with spiritual and mystical powers. Kris makers were often held in high regard and were believed to have special skills and knowledge that allowed them to imbue the weapons with special powers.
These antique prints are part of a set offered by Indies Gallery, dealer in antique maps, prints, books and photographs, dating from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. Visit their website for more information. www.indiesgallery.com
Indies Gallery also offers these prints as high-quality reproductions, which can be found at www.oldeastindies.com