Prince Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman
was born in 1811 into the noble Indonesian Regent family of the
Ngabehi Kertoboso Bustaman (1681-1759),
also a descendent of the powerful Mataram Kingdom and Sultanate..
The Bustaman family encompassed 20 Regents and at least 7 Regent families
throughout Indonesia, and is remembered for their heroic support of Prince
Diponegoro's struggle for independence.
Two cousins of Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman, namely Raden Sukur (who
took on the name Raden Panji Adi Negara, born 1803) and his older brother also
Saleh (alias Arya Natadiningrat, born 1801) both sons of the celebrated Regent
of Semarang Kyai
(Suraadimanggala), also fought
Because of this, Raden Sukur's father
- the celebrated and beloved Regent of Semarang -
were arrested by the Dutch in 1825.
Both were first jailed on the vessel "Maria van Reygersbergen" and later on sent to Surabaya onboard the vessel
After that, father and son were exiled to Ambon and Sumenep, where
(Suraadimanggala) passed away on July 20, 1827 at the age of 62.
But the Dutch colonial forces could not
apprehend Raden Sukur. Even though his father and
brother were at the mercy of the colonial forces he stayed loyal and steadfast to Pangeran
Diponegoro until the very end - and was finally captured on July 26, 1829.
arrest of Prince Diponegoro
by General de Kock, Prince Raden Saleh moved to Europe,
where he studied art under Cornelius Kruseman and Andreas Schelfhout.
Although he was the first Indonesian artist to paint in the Western style, the
fact that he expressed individuality and creativity in his work (as opposed to
the traditional approach which stressed the reproduction of established forms
and styles) showed the way for future Indonesian artists to express their own
ideas more freely.
It was from Kruseman that Prince Raden Saleh learned his skills as a
portraitist, and he was received at various European courts where he was
commissioned mainly to do portraits. From 1839, he spent five years at the court
of Ernst I, Grand Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who became an important patron.
From Schelfhout, Prince Raden Saleh learned the skills of a landscape artist.
Raden Saleh visited
many European cities, as well as Algiers.
While in The Hague
a lion tamer allowed
him to study his lions, and subsequently
wild animal scenes brought
Prince Raden Saleh
Prince Raden Saleh returned to Indonesia in 1851, having lived in Europe for
years and subsequently married into the family of the
Sultan of Yokyakarta.
continued to paint, producing portraits of Javanese aristocrats, and many
Prince Raden Saleh died on April 23, 1880, after returning from a second
extended stay in Europe.
Prince Raden Saleh's most
his oil painting
'The Capture of Prince Diponegoro' which was returned to
Indonesia from the Royal Palace of the Netherlands in 1978. It
is now on display
Museum Istana in Jakarta. In the painting, Prince Raden Saleh deliberately
made the heads of the Dutch big, a reference to their pomposity and arrogance,
and also to make them 'laughable' figures in comparison with the well-balanced
figures of the Indonesians.
It is believed that the Javanese man covering his face with his hands, standing
Diponegoro, and the Javanese man standing with his head bowed in the
crowd at the bottom of the stairs, are both self-portraits.
prerequisite for a historical painting during the 19th Century was the existence
of a nation, since the nation - not a client - was the address for the topic. Or
to put it the other way around: by creating images of national historical events,
you created a virtual nation as well. In a way the Dutch created the idea of
Netherlands India through paintings like Pieneman’s
Subjugation of Diponegoro.
And Raden Saleh created a nation in waiting by painting the Arrest of
Diponegoro the way he did. The introduction of the topic historical
painting meant the introduction of the idea of nationhood.
By accepting this interpretation of Raden Saleh’s Arrest of Pangeran
Diponegoro, we have to reinterpret Prince Raden Saleh’s role in Indonesian
history as well. He has to be placed right at the beginning of a long line of
Indonesian modernizers and proto-nationalist figures.
That his message was little understood by his fellow Javanese has something to
do with timing: he stepped too early onto the stage of Javanese social and
But nevertheless he broke the ground. He proved that Javanese could excel in
European cultural techniques as well. The painting was among the first to
introduce the topic history and historical painting to Southeast Asian art. It
is the first representation, interpretation, and comment on the contemporary.
For the first time a local artist left anonymity to proclaim that it is his job
to comment the world. For the first time in Southeast Asian history the artist
as a topos established himself in the middle of society and took self-assured
his seat in the front row, next to the political elites.
This was an immense modern act. It was the prerequisite for the beginning of a
new era, a prerequisite for modernity.
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