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Raden Saleh

Raden Saleh Sjarif Boestaman (1811 23 April 1880)[1][2] was an Indonesian Romantic
painter of Arab-Javanese ethnicity who pioneered modern Indonesian art. He was considered
to be the first modern artist from Indonesia (then Dutch East Indies), and his paintings
corresponded with nineteenth-century romanticism which was popular in Europe at the time.
He also expressed his cultural roots and inventiveness in his work.

Early life
Raden Saleh Sjarif Boestaman was born in 1811 in Semarang on the island of Java in the
Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). He was born into a noble Hadhrami family where
his father was Sayyid Husen bin Alwi bin Awal bin Yahya, an Indonesian of Arab descent. He
was the grandson of Sayyid Abdullah Bustaman maternally.[3]

Travel to Europe

Raden Saleh, c. 1840, credited to Friedrich Carl Albert Schreuel

Young Raden Saleh was first taught in Bogor by the Belgian artist A.J. Payen. Payen
acknowledged the youth's talent, and persuaded the colonial government of the Netherlands
to send Raden Saleh to the Netherlands to study art. He arrived in Europe in 1829 and began
to study under Cornelius Kruseman and Andreas Schelfhout.
It was from Kruseman that Raden Saleh studied his skills in portraiture, and later was
accepted at various European courts where he was assigned to do portraits. While in Europe,
in 1836 Saleh became the first indigenous Indonesian to be initiated into Freemasonry. From
1839, he spent five years at the court of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who
became an important patron.
From Schelfhout, Raden Saleh furthered his skills as a landscape painter. Raden Saleh visited
several European cities, as well as Algiers. In The Hague, a lion tamer allowed Raden Saleh
to study his lion, and from that his most famous painting of animal fights was created, which
subsequently brought fame to the artist. Many of his paintings were exhibited at the
Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Several of his paintings were destroyed when the Colonial
Dutch pavilion in Paris was burnt in 1931.

Return to Dutch East Indies

Photograph of Raden Saleh's house in Cikini in c. 18751885

Raden Saleh in 1872

Raden Saleh returned to Dutch East Indies in 1852,[4]:26 after living in Europe for 20 years. He
worked as conservator for the colonial collection of government art and continued painting
portraits of the Javanese aristocracy, and many more landscape paintings. Returning to Java,
he expressed his uneasiness of living in the colonies, stating that "here, people only talks
about coffee and sugar, then sugar and coffee." in one his letters.[4]:31
Upon returning, Saleh built a house in Cikini, based on the Callenberg Castle where he had
during his European travels c. 1844. Surrounded by vast grounds, most of the them were
converted into public gardens in 1862, and were closed in the turn of the century. In 1960, the
Taman Ismail Marzuki was built in the former gardens. The house itself is still used today as
a hospital.[4]:26

He married a young aristocratic woman of Yogyakarta Sultanate, Raden Ayu Danudirdja, in

1867 and subsequently moved to Bogor, where he rent a house near Bogor Botanical Gardens
with a view of Mount Salak. He later took his wife to travel in Europe, visiting countries such
as the Netherlands, France, German, and Italy. His wife however contracted an illness while
in Paris, the exact illness is still not known, and was so severe that they both immediately
returned to Bogor.[4]:30 She died on 31 July 1880,[4]:30 following her husband's death three
months earlier.

On Friday morning, 23 April 1880, Saleh suddenly fell sick. He claimed that he was poisoned
by one of his servants, but later examination showed that his blood flow was disrupted due to
a clot near his heart. Saleh was buried two days later in Kampung Empang, Bogor. As
reported in Javanese Bode newspaper, 28 April 1880, his funeral was "attended by various
land lords and Dutch officials, and even by curious students from nearby school."[4]:30

During his stay in Paris, Saleh met Horace Vernet whose painting frequently took themes of
African wildlife. Compared to Vernet, Saleh's painting seems to be more influenced by the
romantic painter Eugne Delacroix. This could be seen in one of Saleh's work, Hunting Lion,
1840, which has similar composition to Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People. However,
Werner Kraus, a researcher in the Southeast-Asian Art Center of Passau, German, said that
Saleh "never mentioned Delacroix. Perhaps he saw Delacroix's, and possibly Vernet's, works
during an exhibiton."[4]:23

The Arrest of Pangeran Diponegoro

The Arrest of Pangeran Diponegoro, 1857, Merdeka Palace Museum, Jakarta.

Raden Saleh is particularly remembered for his historical painting, The Arrest of Pangeran
Diponegoro,[4]:26 which depicted the betrayal of the colonial government to the rebel leader
Prince Diponegoro, thus ending the Java War in 1830. The Prince was tricked into entering
Dutch custody near Magelang, believing he was there for negotiations of a possible ceasefire. He was captured through treachery and later deported.
The event had been previously painted by a Dutch painter Nicolaas Pieneman, commissioned
by Lieutenant General Hendrik Merkus de Kock. It is thought that Saleh saw this painting

during his stay in Europe. Saleh made significant changes in his version of the painting;
Pieneman painted the scene from the right, Saleh from the left. Pieneman depicts Diponegoro
with resigned expression, while in Saleh's he appears to be outraged. Pieneman gave his
painting the tittle Submission of Prince Diponegoro, while Saleh gave The Arrest of
Pangeran Diponegoro. It is known that Saleh deliberately painted Diponegoro's Dutch
captors with large heads to make them appear monstrous, as opposed to the more
proportionally depicted Javanese.[4]:26
Raden Salehs work has been regarded as a sign of incipient nationalism in what was then the
Dutch East Indies.[5] This can also be seen it the depiction of Diponegoro's men. Pieneman
had never been to the Indies, and so depicted Diponegoro's men in a more Arabic fashion.
Saleh's version has a more accurate depiction of native Javanese clothing, with some figures
wearing batik and blangkon.
Saleh finished this painting in 1857 and presented it to Willem III of Netherlands in Den
Haag. It was returned to Indonesia in 1978 as a realization of a cultural agreement between
the two countries in 1969, regarding the return of cultural items which were took, lent, or
exchanged to the Dutch in the previous eras. However, the painting did not fall under any of
those category because Saleh presented it to the King of Netherland and was never in the
possession of Indonesia. It was returned as a gift from the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, and is
currently displayed at the Merdeka Palace Museum in Jakarta.[4]:26


Winter Scenery (1830)

Portrait of Jean Chrtien Baud (1835)

Portrait of Johannes van den Bosch (1836)

Portrait of Herman Willem Daendels (1838)

Lion attacking a horse (1840)

Self-portrait (1841)

Deer Hunt (1846)

Javanese Landscape, with Tigers Listening to the Sound of a Travelling Group (1849)

Six Horsemen Chasing Deer (1860)

A Flood in Java (1865-1875)

Javanese Mail Station (1876)

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