Indonesian furniture reflects the rich trading history of the archipelago. Trade brought people and ideas from China, India, Portugal, Holland and Islam to the islands. These cultures influenced the indigenous styles.
Village furniture is simple: decorated household storage chests, stools, low work tables and sleeping mats that can be rolled away during the day. The wealthy elites, both local and expatriate, created a market for more elaborate furniture suited to the damp heat of the tropics. Similar cultural influences, colonial European, Chinese and Islamic, combined in the New World in Spanish Colonial furniture. Some of the painted chests and cupboards from East Java and Madura strongly resemble the chests and trasteros from Spanish Mexico and New Mexico.
Craftsmanship ranges from basic farmer's stools carved from a single piece of wood, to finely finished, marble-topped cupboards produced by master cabinetmakers. Workshops associated with the royal courts and the major trading cities of the Dutch East India Company on Java produced furniture that combined curvilinear Javanese tastes with the simplicity of eighteenth century European classicism as well as Chinese and Indian influences. This hybrid style may have in turn influenced nineteenth century European Art Nouveau. An example is the large cupboard with gold gilt detailing from Central Java.
These cabinetmakers also made marble top tables, elegant chairs with woven rattan seats, carved benches for the waiting rooms outside business and government offices, massive desks, smaller, inlaid writing desks, elaborately carved and painted ceremonial wedding beds with secret compartments for valuables, low tables and home altars in the Chinese style. After Indonesian independence, the local Chinese were required to take Indonesian names, but some of the pre-World War II cabinets have small brass plates with the Chinese name of the cabinet maker inscribed on them.
Next: Indonesian Furniture from East Java and Madura Island
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