Batik Appraisal: A Collector’s Guide

I am often asked how I know what to look for. I also hear questions such as: what makes this batik worth $200 and this one worth $2000? There are many variables to consider when evaluating a piece of batik. Maker/workshop/atelier, workmanship, form, when during period it was produced, quality of materials used, and the condition of the piece are the main consideration. The more you study a piece, the more you will see and understand. Reading and comprehending the researches that have been done is very important. However, experiencing examples in person is the most essential.

The maker is one of important factors in determining the quality of a batik. A prominent batikmaker such as Nyai Bei Mardusari has been considered by nearly every authority on batik movement to be a leader for the period. Iwan Tirta, a well-known batik designer mentioned in his book that she was the best batikmaker. He noted that no one does the finer work like Nyai Bei Mardusari. You can view her extremely fine work on this blog.

Form and its relationship to workmanship. The word "form" is like figure of a human being. It refers to the overall visual impression that you have of somebody, such as whether he is thin, or fat, or stooped, or erect and stiff. It does not incorporate any impression that may be given by a big nose, or squinty eyes, or bow legs. In a batik its meaning is the same: overall visual impression. "Workmanship", and used in respect of a batik, refers to the execution of stylus, dyeing process, as well as the overall standard of the quality of the batik. The most important single factor is harmony. Everything should look as if it is a part of a whole. All separate elements should fit together neatly and correctly. The workmanship of the batik should present clean, positive lines. The overall visual impression of the batik should be harmonious: when you view the batik, think of a well-formed young beautiful woman. This should be the batik image. The impression should be young, beautiful, powerful, vital. Though, impression depends upon the taste of viewers.

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