Arts and Culture
For almost a century (ca 1880s-1970s) glass has been widely used as a new and prestigious medium for painting in the island of Java. During this time, probably millions of pieces have been produced for the Javanese public ranging from members of the nobility, religious leaders, urban middle-class families and peasants, and almost all common Javanese iconographic themes and topics of the modern era have been reproduced on glass.
Although glass had been introduced by the Dutch during the 17th century as a luxury good, it was probably not used by Javanese painters before the second part of the 19th century, and even not easily accessible to them. From the 1880s onwards, despite of an increasing use of glass as a medium for painting, this phenomenon seems to have been very little valuated and largely neglected by Dutch scholars and collectors, at least until the latest years of the colonial era.
Starting from the contrast between the low interest shown by the colonials and the abundance of reverse glass paintings produced in Java, this communication aims to explore the process of appropriation that underlies the use of this new medium (through the themes, the functions and display). It will highlight the local agency acting as an engine to this process and which must have been seen as a misuse of the material by the colonials. Accordingly, it will also explain why so few collectors showed any interest in this popular art until the late 20th century and what was the profile of them, according to the very rare available sources.