The Masterpieces of Batik Pesisir Made by Carolina Josephina von Franquemont (Batik Prankemon)

Carolina Josephina von Franquemont (1817 - 1867)
Woman’s Hip Wrapper, circa 1850
Textile, Cotton plain weave with hand-drawn wax resist (batik tulis) and applied gold (prada), 42 x 80 3/8 in. (106.7 x 204.3 cm)
Inger McCabe Elliott Collection (M.91.184.330)

This was surely a wedding gift for an affluent Indo-European or Peranakan bride. The symbolism is Asian, in spite of the European design influences. The egrets, according to Javanese symbolism, protect against misfortune, as they take wing at the least sign of danger. These birds are further associated with the phoenix, which symbolizes summer, harvest, and prosperity. The trees of life form the axis of the universe, which connects the world of humans with that of the ancestors, particularly during critical life passages.

Carolina Josephina von Franquemont in 1840, at age twenty-three, started a batik workshop. Indeed, she is the earliest female Indo-European batik entrepreneur known to us today. She moved her workshop in 1845 to the slopes of volcanic Mount Ungaran near the Ungaran River in Semarang, where she had relatives. There she had at her disposal not only clean water for the preparation of white cotton and the dye process but also trained batik makers and only a short distance away a well-to-do clientele. G.P. Rouffaer writes that she “made sarung almost exclusively, all expressly for sale to half or wholly European ladies and Chinese women—the latter, as everybody knows, always of mixed blood in our colonies, originally the children of Chinese immigrants by Javanese women, they later maried within their own group” (Rouffaer & Juynboll, 1914).

Demand for her batiks was bolstered by their technical perfection (Rouffaer, 1904). Using vegetable dyes, von Franquemont succeeded in imitating the rich color scheme of Indian chintz. In addition to red, blue, ocher, and brown, she developed a colorfast green, which, given the Malay pronunciation of her surname, came to be known as Prankemon green.

A von Franquemont batik is recognizable by its color range, the perfection of its drawing, and the design. Von Franquemont was a trendsetter, but the limited production of her workshop meant that her finished batiks were fairly exclusive items. Her designs were sought after, however and quickly imitated by other entrepreneurs. Von Franquemont herself copied designs from colleagues and borrowed European motifs from the Dutch women’s journal Aglaia. Rouffaer states that she had the exclusive right to copy these (Rouffaer, 1904). This says a great deal about the prestige von Franquemont enjoyed. She probably also copied Chinese designs from Peranakan entrepreneurs. This deduction is validated by the fact that there is a mythological story illustrated on a batik from a Peranakan workshop which is virtually identical to a von Franquemont batik (as well as to one by another Indo-European entrepreneur, Catharina von Oosterom) (Veldhuisen, 1993). Von Franquemont also made use of traditional north coast designs as well as some from the Principalities.

In 1867 Mount Ungaran erupted and swept von Franquemont and her workshop away. Contemporary entrepreneurs had succeeded in imitating her green dye, but their styles differed from the real Batik Prankemon.

Source: Batik from the North Coast of Java.


Rouffaer, G.P., & Juynboll, H.H. (1914). De batikkunst in Nederlandsch Indie en haar geschiedenis. (Utrecht: A. Oosthoek).

Rouffaer, G.P. (1904). De voornaamste industrien der inlandsche bevolking van Java en Madoera. In Koloniaal Economische Bijdragen, C. Th. van Deventer, ed. (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff).

Veldhuisen, H.C. (1993). Batik Belanda 1840-1940. (Jakarta: Gaya Favorit).

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