The Masterpieces of Batik Pesisir Made by A.J.F. Jans-Veenstra Workshop

A. J. F. Jans (Indonesia, Java, circa 1850 - circa 1920)
Woman’s Hip Wrapper (Sarung), circa 1900
Textile, Hand-drawn wax resist (batik) on machine-woven cotton, natural dyes, 42 x 87 1/2 in. (106.6 x 222.2 cm)
Inger McCabe Elliott Collection (M.91.184.392)

This very expensive cloth of the finest quality would only have been chosen by a mature woman with a fashionable and quite personal Eurpeanized taste. Only a ladu whose husband was of high status could afford to make such a striking choice. The European iris stands for opulence; its fragrance, for happiness and the fullness of life (De Echo: Weekblad voor dames in Indie 1900-1901). In the archipelago the flower may have been mistaken for an orchid, a flower that to Europeans represents graceful elegance (Chavelier & Gheerbrant, 1988). As the Javanese link the orchid with regeneration, it was and is often used in wedding bouquets or as decoration of the nuptial chamber. The Peranakan relate it to summer and the mature phase of life.

De Echo: Weekblad voor dames in indie (1900-1901).

Chevalier, J., & Gheerbrant, A. (1988). Dictionnaire des Symboles. (Paris: Robert Laffont/Jupiter).

After the death of her husband around 1885, Jans Signed her batiks “Wed J. Jans” (wed. is the abbreviation for the Dutch weduwe {widow}). This is noteworthy for dating her batiks. Around 1900 she resumed signing J. (possibly for Johanna) Jans; the design of these batiks distinguishes them from those made before 1885.

Being widow with small children but no pension, she could not survive on the earnings of her workshop and so took in lodgers and developed her hobby, growing roses and orchids, into a business. In 1893 she was named chairwoman of a local comittee charged with preparing an official gift for the newly crowned Dutch queen, Wilhelmina; ten dolls representing the diverse trades of Pekalongan. The dolls included five batik makers and a cotton spinner.

In 1909 Jans had approximately sixty batik makers in her service, making her workshop one of the biggest in the town. Sometime between 1911 and 1915, she sold the workshop to Mrs. Wiler, who in turn sold it to Jacqueline van Ardenne. The new owner in succession paid the employees’ advances and purchased Jans’s color recipes and the rights to copy her designs and signature. The style of these later “Jans” batiks differs from that of the originals and the signature is larger (Veldhuisen, 1993).

Source: Batik from the North Coast of Java.


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

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