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Gold leaf is a precious and fragile material and this bold magenta coloured silk cloth was probably made to be used as decoration, like the backdrop to a shrine or pavilion. This striking piece features a boldly drawn pattern of lotus blossoms ‘padma’, amidst a pattern of tendrils and leaves. Cloths like this, with expensive gold leaf ‘prada’ decoration, are associated with the courts and palaces of Bali and this example probably dates to the early twentieth century. Occasionally, a decorated cloth like this would be worn, usually as a man’s chest cloth ‘saput’ or ‘kampuh’ that was tied under the armpits and fell to the knees, in the style of an aristocrat or a dancer.

They were often made by the same artists ‘sangging’ who made paintings for the courts. The decoration is first drawn onto the cloth, then thin gold leaf, which was exported from China, was applied to the cloth using fish glue ‘ancur’ as a binder. The same binder is used by artists to make the natural pigment for paintings.

Nowadays in Bali, these textiles are still popular but are made using a silkscreen technique. Real gold is no longer used but has been replaced by a gold colour made from bronze pigments or plastic gold foil.


  • Silkscreen printing - a technique where a mesh (of various materials) is used as a ‘stencil’ to transfer ink or dye onto a fabric (or paper) – design on the screen is formed by blocking selected areas that prevent the ink to go through.