Wednesday 17 July 2013

Eastward Or Westward Bound Dutch Ships?

Of all the motifs on samplers, one of my all-time favourites has to be the ships that are found on some Dutch samplers like the one above which is pictured in Albarta Meulenbelt-Nieuwburg's Embroidery Motifs from Old Dutch Samplers. The Dutch like the British are a great sea-faring nation with a great history of seamanship behind them. And colonialism....

While searching for images of something completely different, by chance I came across these fabulous textiles images. All the cloths are undated and originate from Lampung - on the southern tip of Sumatra, in Indonesia. The area was part of the Banten Sultanate until it was annexed by the Dutch in 1752 and then became known as Residentie Lampoengse Districten in the Dutch East Indies.

Lampung cloths such as these date back to the 18th century (around the time of Dutch annexation) and are called ship cloths. The ship motif represents the transition from one realm of life to the next, for instances from boyhood to manhood or from being single to married and also represents the final transition to the afterlife. Production of these cloths came to an abrupt end with the catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. These cloths are greatly prized by collectors now. So, the question has to be asked, were the ship motifs inspired by the sight of arriving Dutch navies and did their motifs on the prized cloths then travel back to the Netherlands and were they copied by Dutch stitchers on the samplers? Are there Lampung ship cloths (sometimes called palepai, tatebin and tampan) in the Netherlands? Does anyone have any more information?


  1. Just come back from holiday and catching up. I love this article and look forward to any further information in this space.

  2. So nice, I made this connection as well :)!
    See my blogpost here: