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Raden Saleh's Interpretation of the Arrest of Diponegoro : an Example of Indonesian proto-nationalist Modernism - article ; n°1 ; vol.69, pg 259-294

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37 pages
Archipel - Année 2005 - Volume 69 - Numéro 1 - Pages 259-294
Werner Kraus
Raden Saleh's Interpretation of the Arrest of Diponegoro : an Example of Indonesian proto- nationalist Modernism
L'arrestation de Diponegoro fut représentée par le peintre néerlandais Pieneman au début des années 1830, dans la tradition des interprétations héroïques de l'histoire néerlandaise. Diponegoro apparaissait soumis, de même que toute sa famille et sa suite. Tous les personnages du tableau semblaient comprendre que la rude action de De Kock avait pour but le bien des Javanais. L'approche de Raden Saleh est différente. C'est un Diponegoro furieux qui est le personnage actif, au centre du tableau. Son regard est provoquant, alors que celui des officiers néerlandais est figé et ne croise les yeux de personne. Le tableau de Saleh peut être interprété à deux niveaux : le premier emploie la perspective de la culture javanais ; le second prend en compte l'histoire de la peinture européenne. Cet unique tableau historique de Raden Saleh suit de près celui de Louis Gallait de 1841, L'abdication de Charles V, qui était l'un des tableaux historiques clefs dans les années précédant la Révolution de 1848. Louis Gallait était belge. Son tableau doit être compris comme une déclaration politique majeure envers le gouvernement néerlandais : notre lutte pour l'indépendance aujourd'hui ressemble à la vôtre il y a 400 ans. Raden Saleh saisit le message et le transforma en une déclaration proto-nationaliste : le Prince Diponegoro est le Guillaume le Taciturne javanais ; sa lutte contre l'occupation étrangère doit être comprise comme le possible début de la fin de la souveraineté néerlandaise à Java. Interprété de cette manière, Raden Saleh représente une partie, ou pour mieux dire une figure de proue, d'une conscience modernisante et mondialisante à Java.
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Werner Krauss
Raden Saleh's Interpretation of the Arrest of Diponegoro : an
Example of Indonesian "proto-nationalist" Modernism
In: Archipel. Volume 69, 2005. Autour de la peinture à Java. Volume I. pp. 259-294.
Résumé
Werner Kraus
Raden Saleh's Interpretation of the Arrest of Diponegoro : an Example of Indonesian "proto- nationalist " Modernism
L'arrestation de Diponegoro fut représentée par le peintre néerlandais Pieneman au début des années 1830, dans la tradition
des interprétations héroïques de l'histoire néerlandaise. Diponegoro apparaissait soumis, de même que toute sa famille et sa
suite. Tous les personnages du tableau semblaient comprendre que la rude action de De Kock avait pour but le bien des
Javanais. L'approche de Raden Saleh est différente. C'est un Diponegoro furieux qui est le personnage actif, au centre du
tableau. Son regard est provoquant, alors que celui des officiers néerlandais est figé et ne croise les yeux de personne. Le
tableau de Saleh peut être interprété à deux niveaux : le premier emploie la perspective de la culture javanais ; le second prend
en compte l'histoire de la peinture européenne. Cet unique tableau historique de Raden Saleh suit de près celui de Louis Gallait
de 1841, L'abdication de Charles V, qui était l'un des tableaux historiques clefs dans les années précédant la Révolution de
1848. Louis Gallait était belge. Son tableau doit être compris comme une déclaration politique majeure envers le gouvernement
néerlandais : notre lutte pour l'indépendance aujourd'hui ressemble à la vôtre il y a 400 ans. Raden Saleh saisit le message et le
transforma en une déclaration proto-nationaliste : le Prince Diponegoro est le Guillaume le Taciturne javanais ; sa lutte contre
l'occupation étrangère doit être comprise comme le possible début de la fin de la souveraineté néerlandaise à Java. Interprété de
cette manière, Raden Saleh représente une partie, ou pour mieux dire une figure de proue, d'une conscience modernisante et
mondialisante à Java.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Krauss Werner. Raden Saleh's Interpretation of the Arrest of Diponegoro : an Example of Indonesian "proto-nationalist"
Modernism. In: Archipel. Volume 69, 2005. Autour de la peinture à Java. Volume I. pp. 259-294.
doi : 10.3406/arch.2005.3934
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/arch_0044-8613_2005_num_69_1_3934Werner Kraus
Raden Saleh's Interpretation of the Arrest ofDiponegoro :
an Example of Indonesian "proto-nationalist" Modernism
Neem, schildervorst, uw teekenstift,
Als veldheersstaf ter hand,
Verover voor den landgenoot
Der kunsten heilig land. W
What is 'modern' ? What means 'modern art' in the context of Southeast
Asian culture ? How did Western pictorial representations transform the
aesthetics of Asian minds ? Why was Western Renaissance linear perspective
accepted in the East? After all linear perspective creates a highly artificial
representation of space and "belongs more to visual symbolism than to the
structure of vision " (2). As Ernst Panofsky has shown in his article Die
Perspektive als symbolische Form, published already in 1925, the capacity to
interpret the pictorial statement of a perspective representation is a learned
skill and a cultural attribute.
Was the change imperialistically imposed ? Or was it accepted because it
worked more convincingly than traditional representations ? And did the new
mode of representation influence in any way the future development of East
and Southeast Asian thought, just as the invention of Renaissance linear per
spective influenced the minds of Europeans and was basically responsible
for the rise of natural science ? What changes were needed in the mental
frames of the people in Southeast and East Asia to step out of their cultural
1. Banck, J.E., "Aan Raden Saleh, Na een bezoek in zijn atelier". In Zeepbellen : lyrische
dichtproeven Amsterdam : L.F.J. Hassels, 1860, p. 44.
2. Swiderski, Richard M, "The dragon and the straightedge, part 1 : A semiotics of the
Chinese response to European pictorial space", in Semiotica Vol. 81-1/2, 1990, p. 1.
Archipel 69, Paris, 2005, pp. 259-294 Werner Kraus 260
continuum and look at the world with different eyes ? Did they actually step
out of their continuum ? Or was the new art incorporated into it ?
Next to the 'how' stand the 'who'. Ideas are not disseminated by the
wind, but by persons. Who's done it? Who was the vessel?
These are important questions that have and need to be attended to by
regional scholars and this paper is another small step in the above sketched
direction. I would like to follow up one argument of John Clark. He states,
that the nationalist discourse was taken up and maybe even started by artists
in Southeast Asia at an early time, that we might have to look for the very
first kernels of 'national' or 'modern' sentiments in the arts :
"Among the earliest expressions of this is Raden Saleh's 1850s depiction of The Capture
of Prince Diponegoro by General de Kock after the Java War of 1825-30, a painting that
declares, I think, 'you did this to us, but we are still us' ". (3)
In the following I will try to put some flesh to the bones of this statement.
I will revisit Raden Saleh's best known painting Arrest of Pang e ran
Diponegoro again, and will attempt to reinterpret it, along the lines of
European art history as well as through the perspective of Javanese cultural
ideas. Hopefully this piece of archaeology will increase our knowledge about
the beginnings of modern art and modernity in Java to some extent (111. 1).
This is not the first paper about the painting in question. Many years ago
Peter Carey published a brilliant historical interpretation, (4) and many others
have, in snorter or longer replicas, looked at the painting from one or the
other angle.
This is not surprising since The Arrest of Diponegoro is the first Southeast
Asian painting in the tradition of European historical painting, the first paint
ing done by an artist from the region (apart from certain works of folk art)
that deals with a Southeast Asian historical event. (5) At the same time it is
the only historical painting Raden Saleh ever did, unless we accept the exis
tence of a mysterious Battle oflsly. (6)
3. Clark, John, Modern Asian Art, Sydney [etc.] : Craftsman House : G+B Arts International,
1998, p. 241.
4. Carey, Peter, "Raden Saleh, Dipanagara and the Painting of the Capture of Dipanagara at
Magelang (28 March 1830)", Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society,
Vol. 55, 1, 1982.
5. It is possible to argue that Esteban Villanueva's Basi Revolt of 1821 in the Philippines is
an earlier historical painting, but it is not produced within the same discourse of European
painting" as we find in Raden Saleh's work. See Flores, Patrick, D., Painting "history
History : Revisions in Philippine Colonial Art, Quezon City, Office of Research
Coordination, University of the Philippines & Manila, National Commission for Culture and
the Arts, 1998, pp. 25-26. (I have to thank John Clark for this comment).
6. According to Rita Wassing-Visser, Royal Gifts from Indonesia. Historical Bonds with the
House of Orange-Nassau (1660-1938), Zwolle 1993, Raden Saleh presented a Battle oflsly
to the Dutch King Willem II. The battle at Isly (1844) was part of the French colonization of
Archipel 69, Paris, 2005 Raden Saleh's Interpretation of the Arrest of Diponegoro 261
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
111. 1 - Raden Saleh, The arrest of Diponegoro, (1 857).
Oil on canvas, 1 12 x 179 cm, Museum Istana Jakarta.
Archipel 69, Paris, 2005 Werner Kraus 262
Historical painting has been a major subject of European art production
since the days of Italian renaissance. But it was during the 19th century that
it reached its climax. 19th century Europe was dominated by historicism and
fascinated by the idea of historical recurrence. Political and cultural events
were regarded as recurring mirror images of former developments. Although
natural science and technology developed in unprecedented speed, culture
held its breath, turned inward and backward. 19th century men built houses
that looked more gothic than the gothic cathedrals of old, administration
buildings that looked more baroque than baroque mansions of the 17th cen
tury and the study of Greek and Roman culture was at its peak. Walter
Benjamin claims in his Arcades Project that 19th century bourgeoisie
returned to the archaic and mythological concept of "historical recurrence",
because it didn't dare to confront itself with the cultural implications of it's
newly established mode of production : capitalism. (7)
The century was "addicted to history". The "awakening of the nation"
was part of that development and paved the way of European imperialism.
Historical painting as a topic fits perfectly into the cross century intellectual
movement. It represents the appropriation of the arts for the common goal :
justification of the Wille zur Macht (will to power) through construction of
the historical precedent. This explains the gross over-evaluation of the topic
"historical painting" in academic art circles throughout the 19th century.
Historical painting, which carried strong nationalistic undertones, developed
into a major instrument for glorification of the state and/or nation building.
The huge canvases depicting the French conquest of Algeria by Horace
Vernet basically served the nation to forget the defeat at Waterloo and devel
op a new sense of national pride. Other newly created nations, like Belgium,
needed powerful images of their (real or constructed) historical past to estab
lish a kind of identity in the present. Belgian historical painters were the
most powerful in Europe in the 1830-40s. Art - painting - was still the best
venue to deliver strong images. The invention of photography slowly broke
the dominance of realistic art and French impressionism - which by the
nature of its philosophy dealt with the present, not the past - finally brought
an end to the tradition of historical painting.
Algeria. Horace Vernet did an enormous canvas of this battle in 1845 and showed it at the
Paris Salon of 1846. Raden Saleh visited Vernet' s studio in November 1845 where the work
was still "under construction". It seems that he did a small version (1 14 x 85 cm) of that batt
le. The painting was auctioned in 1850 in Amsterdam. A certain de Haas bought it for the
price of dfl 210.-. The present whereabouts and the owner of that painting are unknown.
7. Benjamin, Walter, Das Passagen-Werk, Frankfurt : Suhrkamp 1982, D9,3, Vol. 1, p. 175.
Archipel 69, Paris, 2005 Raden Saleh 's Interpretation of the Arrest of Diponegoro 263
Raden Saleh and historical painting
History painting needed, as discussed above, certain prerequisites to
develop which did nor exist in Southeast Asia. It is understandable that the
young Javanese painter Raden Saleh who arrived in Europe in 1829, was not
attracted by this subject. Which nation should he glorify ? Which history
could he fall back on ? And he was discouraged by his teachers and friends
as well. They made him rightly believe that he lacked the appropriate educat
ion to paint events of European history or scenes from the Bible (and this
was meant by "historical subjects ").(g) In a letter from Dresden to his ment
or, the Dutch Minister of the Colonies, J.C. Baud, Raden Saleh himself
accepted this opinion :
"It needs a lot of studies to paint historical subjects. You have to know a lot about general
and antic history. I would have to spend a lot of money and time to learn all this and there
are certainly many artist who can do this much better than I' ". (9)
Only after his return to Java did he decide to do a historical painting. He
choose a Javanese historical event, the end of the Java War or the beginning
of the colonization of Indonesia by the Dutch state. This decision of Raden
Saleh was a major step towards emancipation, by which he claimed that
something like "Javanese history" existed as a concept in opposition to "his
torical stories".
Tim Behrend remarked about the intellectual fermentation processes in
mid-nineteenth century Java :
" one of the central intellectual processes occurring in the mid nineteenth-century
Javanese courts (was) the accommodation of Dutch science, or perhaps better, the incor
poration of certain European ways of thinking, within the larger world of Javanese
thought. The result of this process was a profoundly new way of organizing or giving sys
tem to the world". (10)
Behrend is not talking about the visual arts, but literature. Still it applies
to the visual arts as well. Saleh's work in Java has to be understood as such a
process.
In focusing on Raden Saleh's The Arrest of Diponegoro I hope to con
tribute a little bit to the understanding of how "modern" concepts entered
8. We only know one painting of Raden Saleh which shows a scene from the bible, The flight
to Egypt, 1829 (oil on canvas, 108 x 152), sold by Max van Waag, Amsterdam 1969. A
Daniel in the lion pit, 1838 mentioned by Graaf, H.J. de, "Raden Saleh's leertijd in
Holland", Moesson, Vol. 22, No. 19, 1979, pp. 12-13) is not confirmed.
9. Letter to J.C. Baud, n.d. (November 1840?), Dresden. ARA-MvK, verbaal, 17-8-1843.
10. Behrend, Tim, "The Writings of K.P.H. Suryanagara, Shifting Paradigms in Nineteenth-
Century Javanese Thought and Letters ", Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Deel
155, 1999, pp. 404-5.
Archipel 69, Paris, 2005 264 Werner Kraus
the consciousness of Javanese artists and intellectuals in the middle of the
19th century. Raden Saleh was after all the Javanese of his time most
exposed to western thought and reality.
Raden Saleh 's experience in the West
Raden Saleh was the first modern Indonesian man. The first Indonesian
who spoke a number of European languages. The first Indonesian who had
lived for an extended time in Europe. He spent 10 years in Holland and
another 15 years in Germany, France, Belgium, England and Italy.
When he left The Hague in 1839 to go on his "grand tour" his self confi
dence was apparently fairly developed. Raden Saleh lived in The Hague the
life of a bohemian. He wore white trousers, a yellow Kashmeer vest, a fine
green Russian coat and English shirts. O1) He had joined the freemason lodge
and most probably spent much of his time at the "Franse Koffiehuis"(12)
which was the hip place to hang out for young artists. He presented himself
to the world as a young gentleman, a dandy, with all the manners expected
from a young cosmopolite of this times - including unpaid debts at the tailor
shop and sexual affairs with certain ladies in town. A sexual relationship
between a brown man and a white women, totally unthinkable at that time in
the colony, was frowned on in Holland as well. His intolerable conduct was
one of the reasons why the authorities wanted Saleh to leave Holland very
urgently. Anyway, when he arrived in Germany he still presented himself as
a dandy and the first portraits done of him in 1839 (13) and 1840(14) illustrate
his self image quite well (111. 2 & 111. 3).
After he had spent some weeks in Diisseldorf, Frankfurt and Berlin he
arrived in Dresden on 2 September 1839. Only a few weeks later the leading
German art journal noted :
11. Loos-Haaxman, Jeanne de, "Raden Saleh in Den Haag", in Jaarboek vereniging
"Die Haghe " (1965), pp. 62-75.
12. Hoogeboom, Annemieke, De stand des Kunstenaars. De positie van kunstschilders in
Nederland in de eerste helft van de negentiende eeuw. Leiden 1993, p. 187.
13. On Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein's drawing is a handwritten attachment by Raden
Saleh which reads : "Raden Saleh geboren op Samarang Java im maand mei 1811". This
should stop the dispute about his year of birth.
14. The Rijksmuseum keeps this painting as Raden Saleh, Zelfportret voor de ezel, which is a
mistake. Thieme/Becker clearly attributes it to Friedrich Carl Albert Schreuel and calls
it "Der Maler Raden Saleh vor der Staffelei 1840" (the painter Raden Saleh in front of the
easel). Friedrich von Bôtticher is in his Malerwerke des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig
1901) even more explicit. He states that Schreuel did a portrait of Raden Saleh in front of his
easel while he was painting a seascape. The portrait is also mentioned in a report on the
Dresden Academy exhibition of 1840 : "Special attention was given to a lion hunt and a
storm on sea by the young Javanese prince Raden Saleh, whose well done portrait by
Professor Schregl (sic!) hangs right above the storm on sea ".
Archipel 69, Paris, 2005 A C.CLM V
Raden Saleh 's Interpretation of the Arrest of Diponegoro 265
" Raden Salih, a young Javanese, member of the ruling family of Samarang, who has
spent a number of years in Holland, where he made important progress in the art of paint
ing, occupies himself copying paintings in the local (Dresden) gallery ".us)
Dresden was the cultural capital of the German countries. Painters like
Caspar David Friedrich and Johan Clausen Dahl, musicians like Robert and
Clara Schumann and Richard Wagner lived and worked in the city. Besides
that an endless stream of European artists moved constantly through town.
Saleh, by good fortune, was accepted by the upper circles of society and
moved with ease through the local salons. He discussed art and politics with
Robert Schumann, met the Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen, the unchallenged
god of the European art scene, of whom he even produced a portrait, and li
stened to the music of Franz List and Mendelson-Bartoldy. Unlike in The
Hague he was treated an equal by the leading artists, art connoisseurs and
aristocrats of the city and began to liberate himself from the conventions
which had restricted his emotional and artistic growth in Holland.
He was moved by his friendly acceptance and struck by the "... intellectua
l intercourse and the and supportive atmosphere which brings the
people here together". (16)
After the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) the people in
Germany were longing for some stability and the Orient and Orientals were
seen as representatives of a civilization blessed by contentment with the pre
sent moment. Raden Saleh the dandy metamorphosed in Dresden quickly
and was reborn as a Javanese painter prince, as the perfect synthesis between
the rational West and the sensual East. His highly developed Javanese sensi
tivity made him adapt this role quickly. And, I believe, he relished every
moment of it (111. 4 & 111. 5).
In a now lost autobiographic text he wrote :
"Two sides, opposite to each other and yet both light and friendly, cast their magic spell
over my soul. There the paradise of my childhood in the bright sunlight, washed by the
Indian Ocean, where my beloved ones live and where the ashes of my ancestors rest. Here
Europe's luckiest countries, where the arts, sciences and educational values shine like di
amond jewellery, to where the yearning of my youth finally brought me ; where I was
lucky enough to find friends within the noblest circles, friends who replaced father, mothe
r, brothers and sisters. Between these two worlds my heart is split. And I feel urged to
offer both sides my loving thanks. I believe that I can do that best by portraying for my
friends in Europe the simple, innocent life and happiness of my people at home, and by
outlining for my countrymen a picture of the wonders of Europe and nobility of the
human spirit".^7)
15. Kunstblatt, 1839, No. 95, s. 380.
16. Letter to Ernst II., Buitenzorg, 4 March 1873 ; Staatsarchiv Coburg, LA A, Nr. 7005.
17. Before leaving Dresden in 1849 his friends asked Raden Saleh to write his autobiography
for them. He turned out a manuscript of about 300 pages with numerous illustrations. The
manuscript was kept in a manor in Maxen near Dresden. When in 1945 the manor was looted
the manuscrit unfortunetely disappeared. Just a few quotes survived.
Archipel 69, Paris, 2005 266 Werner Kraus
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
111. 2 - Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein, (1839).
Raden Saleh, pencil on paper, Kupferstich Kabinett Dresden.
Archipel 69, Paris, 2005 Raden Saleh 's Interpretation of the Arrest of Diponegoro 267
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
111. 3 - Friedrich Carl Albert Schreuel (attributed to), Portrait of Raden Saleh, (1840).
Oil on canvas, 106,7 x 85,3 cm, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, SK-A-4703.
Archipel 69, Paris, 2005