The veil ban in Iran

Ceremony of the abolition of the veil, 1936

🇩🇪 🇳🇱 The tendency of authorities to interfere with women’s clothing is well known. Mostly they want to cover more of the female body, but sometimes it has to be less. Long before the burka and burkini bans in Western Europe, the Iranian Emperor Reza Shah decreed in 1936 that women should lay off their chador and dress in western style. And not only that, they also were supposed to socialise with men. At celebrations and public events, civil servants had to appear with their ladies in formal western dress to be a role model to others. This was supervised and penalties could be imposed. At parties, for example, women were not allowed to sit on one side and men on the other, and women should not just talk to their own husbands. In the streets, the police checked on female dress and did not hesitate to forcibly rob women of their chador. In those days, there were of course only male police officers. When women resorted to long dresses and headscarves, these were also banned.

Modernist circles were pleased with the unveiling and in the North of Iran, which was influenced by Russia, it was easily accepted. For the conservative sections of the population, however, the implementation of the decree was a disaster. Women no longer dared to leave their houses, and if they did, they would be harassed by the neighbourhood boys. Apparently, nobody had thought of the consequences of the new regulations. In the south, some women fled to Iraq. Many others decided to stay completely at home; some committed suicide. But by then the houses had no bath, people went to public bathhouses and that was no longer possible. Always having a quick wash at home is not pleasant; moreover, taking a bath is often also a religious duty. The police knew the needs of the women and therefore patrolled the bathhouses, where they might catch a veiled woman. Reza Baraheni (1935—) recounted that his father used to carry his wife and his mother to the bathhouse in a sack. One day a policeman became suspicious and asked what those bags contained. Pistachios, he answered. The policeman wanted to check it and fingered the bag. The mother, who was ticklish, could not keep her laugh and her carrier was arrested. Baraheni is a writer, so the story could well be fiction — but it’s a nice motif.
The mandatory parties were not really fun either, especially not on winter evenings. In the draughty, unheated halls, the women were cold in their sleeveless, décolleté dresses. Therefore, they sometimes wore a heavy winter coat over it. When a man did not want to bother his wife with all this, he might marry some other woman for the duration of the event, maybe a prostitute. A temporary marriage, even for a few hours, is a possibility offered by Iranian law—even today. In this way he could attend the party with a wife, while he left his real wife at home.
Prostitutes were, by the way, the only women who were allowed to completely cover themselves, or they indeed had to. In this way the government tried to make people understand how despicable the veil was.
The veil ban also led to diplomatic tensions with Great Britain, which defended the right of veiled ladies from British India to visit Iran.
In 1941 Reza Shah resigned under British-Russian pressure and then everything returned to normal. Two years later, the veil was declared a matter of personal choice.

H.E. Chehabi, ‘The banning of the veil and its consequences,’ in: Stephanie Cronin (Hg.), The making of modern Iran. State and society under Riza Shah, 1921–1941, London/New York 2003, 193–210.

The Orient

In 1931, the aviation pioneers Charles and Anne Lindbergh flew from Maine in in north-westerly direction over Canada, Alaska, and the Kurile Islands to reach the Orient, i.e. Japan and China. Anne wrote a book about it that became famous: North to the Orient (1935). For most European travellers, the Orient was Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. In academic circles the name has fallen into disuse. Nowadays that latter area is no longer called Orient, but Near East, Middle East, Islamic world, Islamic world, Islamicate world, le monde arabo-musulman, MENA (Middle East and North Africa) and the like. However, some googling shows that the name Orient still survives in popular use.
The Orient seems to have been the part of the world that stretches from the Turkish border to Japan. Its southern borders are the Sahel and the Indian Ocean. In the Russian Empire, the Islamic territories belonged to the Orient; the Russian parts did not. Tibet is part of it; Mongolia is perhaps a case of doubt.
There always was something problematic about the name. To begin with, the Turkish border, which is apparently important for the definition, shifted quite a bit in recent centuries. Around 1800, modern Greece, Cyprus, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and parts of Romania still belonged to the Ottoman Empire and thus to the Orient. Nowadays they are in Europe and in part even belong to the European Union. And does modern Turkey belong to the Orient? On entering the country one has the strong feeling it does not. The true nature of the word Orient is already evident there: it is not a geographical concept, but rather a feeling.
Moreover, Orient has something to do with Islam: Israel is not Orient, is it? And with old and old-fashioned: Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo one can hardly call Orient. And with exotic: camels, turbans, water pipes, strange smells, music, and clothing; narrow alleys in old cities where a Westerner would never find his way without a guide; luxurious palaces where cruel despots rule at their whim of the moment, surrounded by harem slaves. The Orient is incomprehensible, or if you prefer: mysterious. In the 19th century, to the very prudish Europe the Orient was also sensuous and erotic. The mood changed in the 20th century: nowadays Europe considers the Islamic world as prudish and itself as sexually liberated.
Everyone fills in the Orient as he wants; the most important thing is: the Orient is different from ‘our’ world.

Just some random quotes:

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. (Rudyard Kipling)

“The average Oriental regards the European traveller as fair game, and feels justified in pressing upon him with a perpetual demand for bakshish (baḳshīsh), which simply means ‘a gift’.” (Karl Baedeker, Egypt and the Sûdân. Handbook for travellers, Leipzig/London/New York 1914).

“In the Orient, friendship is a rarity, and selflessness most of all.” (Karl Baedeker, Ägypten, 1928).

“Tea, like a steady, introverted and reserved hermit with charming temperament that inspires people like a spring breeze, originates from the mysterious orient five thousand years ago.”

“In the Orient, the stomach is the seat of the soul. That is why spices in Arabia have been beloved ingredients in fine cuisine and drinks for centuries.”

“Its political system was apparently seeped through with the kind of Oriental cruelty that was characteristic of the East – notably, the Ottoman and Chinese empires.”

“There’s a touch of smoky Oriental cruelty in Ms Marlohe’s eyes that reminds us of Eva Green in Casino Royale.”

“‘Monsoon’ Coffee Mug. Part of our ‘The Mysterious Orient’ collection, our mug depicts the sudden downpours that are the hallmark of the monsoon season …”

“The oriental ritual is deeply cleansing, detoxifying and pleasant for the body. The skin will become silky-smooth and muscular tensions are eased. The entire treatment is accompanied by the scents of Moroccan Atlas cedar, cinnamon and eucalyptus.”

The Orient, then, is apparently a large but vague area, about which all conceivable nonsense can be claimed.
Sometimes the word only indicates a vague origin somewhere in the East. Many Chinese, Indonesian and Thai restaurants have something with Orient in their name, as do carpet shops. The Orient Express went to Constantinople, present-day Istanbul. Cookbooks and restaurants offer Oriental cuisine. Martial arts are usually called Asian and come from the Far East: Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia. Those who are injured in practising them can take advantage of oriental medicine. Oriental or oriental art objects, furniture and lamps are widely available. Interestingly enough, in Arabic belly dance is called raqṣ sharqī, ‘oriental dance’: a case of a western designation adopted in the ‘Orient’. Oriental philosophy and wisdom have been at home in the area between Japan and India, with an offshoot to Gibran Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931, Lebanon/USA), who on his own spread a lot of oriental wisdom in his The Prophet and several other writings.
What did the Europeans do with their Orient?
– Fight it, as long as there was a strong hostile force in the East: Arabs, Ottoman Turks.
– Forget and/or deny that almost everything worthwhile in European culture, the Bible and Christianity included, originated from there.
– Trade with it: on the Silk Road and by sea after the European discovery of the major shipping routes. East India Companies, Tea clippers.
– Conquering and controlling it, especially from ± 1800–1950.
– Fantasise and dream about it.

Further reading:
Orientalism and Oriental Studies: the concepts.
The sword of Islam.
Orientalising the Dutch East Indies, or: Pimp your princes. Dutch colonial rulers imitating Javanese princes.
Dreaming of the OrientOrientalist painting.

Orientalist painting

Before I continue to discuss Orientalism, I will quickly show you some pictures by orientalist painters, so that you get an impression. In the period from roughly 1830–1914, the East was supposed to be picturesque, colourful, exotic, beautiful, rich, and above all sensual. The fabrics were expensive, the architecture was impressive. The supposed arbitrariness and cruelty of Eastern despots is a favourite subject (Cormon, Regnault), as is the cruelty of slavery, although the painters show little concern for their fellow human beings; they rather enjoy the sight of a nearly naked woman or boy. Poverty or misery is hardly ever a subject matter.
For many a painter an oriental scene was the pretext for portraying nudity, as representations from the Bible or Antiquity had been in the past. The sensuousness of the Islamic world, the bathhouses and the harems appealed to the imagination in a Europe that by then was very prudish. Only a few knew about life in those harems, but at a time when European ladies were hidden under poke bonnets and crinolines and almost fainted in their tightly laced corsets, their husbands‘ imagination was stimulated by oriental fantasies.
Orientalist painters did not have to travel to the Orient. Ingres spent his life between France and Italy. Lewis painted a very colourful Cairo, while that city actually consists of fifty shades of pale yellow and grey.
The famous painting showing a dirty-looking slave trader who just reveals a new virgin is by Fabio Fabbi. The copy here below is poor, but if you want to see more oriental soft porn by him you may click here or you google: fabbi slave market. The man must have become rich by painting such trash.
Orientalist painters did not have to have been to the Orient. Ingres never got further than Italy. Lewis paints a very colourful Cairo, although that city actually consists of fifty shades of pale yellow and gray.
The work of Alma Tadema, who painted classical antiquity, is related to that of the Orientalists. When he dealt with ancient Egypt, he was also an orientalist.

Further reading:
The OrientOrientalism and Oriental Studies: the concepts.
The sword of Islam.
Orientalising the Dutch East Indies, or: Pimp your princes. Dutch colonial rulers imitating Javanese princes.
Dreaming of the Orient.

Dreaming of the Orient

Both orientalism and Oriental Studies often are based on the oriental dream. Although I never get personal in these pages, for once I want to speak about my self. You have a right to know how I became an Orientalist.
My parental home was within walking distance of the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam—formerly the Colonial Institute. After the mandatory church attendance on Sunday morning, I enjoyed going to that museum in the afternoon. There was often an event: Indra Kamajoyo, for example, danced there, or Javanese fairy tales were recited, about Kancil the mischievous mouse-deer, or something from the Mahabharata. The best thing was to hear the gamelan orchestra playing, possibly with wayang (puppet theatre). When I was a little older, I absorbed myself in the museum’s Orientalist bookstore.
After a while I knew it: I wanted to go to Java to hear the gamelan play every night. That I also would have to earn my living did not bother me. The best way to work towards it seemed to be studying Indonesian Languages and Literature. That was possible in Leiden and I didn’t want to leave Amsterdam. But to do Indonesian studies you had to do Arabic and Sanskrit first, and studying Arabic was possible in Amsterdam, so if I started with that. Then I stuck to Arabic, although the Middle East was not my dream world at all. But Arabic also included Hebrew for the candidate exam in Semitic Languages. I liked Hebrew too, so I thought it was okay. Later I did end up in Leiden, where I studied Indonesian and classical Malay for another three years. Sanskrit was no longer mandatory by then, Javanese I found too bothersome and my main subject was and remained Arabic. Egypt, where I spent a winter, was an obsession rather than an Oriental dream. But after Egypt I could never get used to the Netherlands again and I often „went back“.
Why that dream? It was very simple: I was not happy with my actual environment and wanted to go away. There was no question of colonial desires. I knew very well that we no longer ‘had’ the Indies and heard enough talking around me about the unpleasant mister Sukarno, who held the scepter there. But that didn’t break the dream.
Dreaming was not the only thing I did: I also went to school, listened to European music and lived a normal life. But the dream of the Orient was strong enough to determine a large part of my future life, although it was not focused enough to take me to Indonesia.
There were also Dutch people who were more focused in their dream and just went. One of them succeeded in building gamelan instruments during the Second World War, on which he and his group gave performances in the Tropenmuseum. One day he left for Indonesia, where he lived as a professor of musicology. The current professor of Javanese in Leiden was trained in Surakarta as a dalang (wayang puppeteer).
Of course there were countless people who did not concern themselves with the ‘Orient’ on the basis of dreams, but, for example, to trade, to conquer or to rule. Yet they too got to do with an Orient that the dreamers had dreamt together.

Further reading:
The OrientOrientalism and Oriental Studies: the concepts.
The sword of Islam.
Orientalising the Dutch East Indies, or: Pimp your princes. Dutch colonial rulers imitating Javanese princes.
Orientalist painting.

Orientalism and Oriental Studies: the concepts

I confess: I am an orientalist. But in what sense exactly?
Orientalism is (or was) a specialism in art that flourished especially in the nineteenth century and was inspired by what was formerly known as ‘the Orient’, the mysterious East: the beauty, the richness, the beauty of colours, the cruelty and the sensuality that people perceived there or at least imagined. A painter or architect who practices orientalism is called an orientalist or an orientalist painter.
Oriental studies are (or were) the scientific study of the languages ​​and civilisations of formerly called ‘the Orient’: an area that began at the steadily receding Turkish border and ended somewhere in East Asia. Someone who practises Oriental studies is also called an orientalist. That’s what I am; more specifically I am an arabist. I cannot paint.
This is also the case in German:
– English: oriental studies – orientalism – orientalist, orientalist painter
– German: Orientalistik – Orientalismus – Orientalist
The concepts of oriental studies and orientalism can be kept apart with the help of the above definitions; so far, confusion is only possible with the word orientalist.
In French, however, the confusion seems to be ingrained. Oriental studies are called études orientales, but also orientalisme. The term orientologie was probably created to create clarity, but is not widely used.
Outside France, confusion only came up when Edward Said’s famous—or notorious— book Orientalism was published in 1978. This author mixed up the two concepts. He did this deliberately, because he wanted to emphasise what he thought was common to both activities, i.e. the desire to create a distorted image of ‘the Orient’ with the intention of subjugating and dominating it. Said primarily had the intention of discrediting both orientalism and oriental studies.

Further reading:
The Orient.
The sword of Islam.
Orientalising the Dutch East Indies, or: Pimp your princes. Dutch colonial rulers imitating Javanese princes.
Dreaming of the OrientOrientalist painting.

Dutch colonial rulers imitating Javanese princes

The princes of Java had traditionally been entitled to hormat: respectful, literally creeping behaviour of their subjects. A gilded parasol (payong) was held up above them, they were being addressed in a language especially meant for communication from low to high, and the subjects did not stand or sit in the presence of their ruler, but squatted or knelt down and moved low over the ground. Anyone who has ever practiced an Asian martial art knows that walking on one’s knees is not easy. It must be learned, at best at a young age. One also has to be able to crawl backwards; after all, it would be improper to turn around and show the Highly-placed Person one’s back. The house staff also crawled when serving food and drinks.

In the Dutch colonial novel The hidden force (De stille kracht), written by Louis Couperus in 1901,1 this hormat is described. In the house of a Javanese prince many servants are needed to serve a drink:

  • The Princess […] said nothing but beckoned a servant. And again the four servants appeared half squatting, half creeping, and prepared another whisky and soda.

The owner of the rich plantation Pacaram had married a princess from the prestigious principality of Solo, i.e. Surakarta. Consequently, ‘Solonese manners’ had crept in and court-like traditions prevail:

  • […] and she felt an affinity with all those minor traditions: the sambal pounded and ground by a crouching maid behind her chair at lunch was the acme of gastronomic pleasure; the races at Ngajiwa, attended by the languid procession of all those women flapping their arms by their sides, followed by maids, carrying their handkerchief, perfume bottle, binoculars, was for her the height of elegance.

Personally, I would enjoy my food less if staff were squatting on the ground behind my chair.
In The Hidden Force it becomes clear that the Javanese princes and regents had taken over certain manners and outward appearances from the Dutch. The reverse, however, was also true. District commissioner Van Oudijck had his garden done by twelve convicts—which perhaps not coincidentally reminds us of another, even more famous Dutch colonial novel, Multatuli’s Max Havelaar,2 in which the regent had his lawn trimmed by a host of unpaid subjects.

The gilded parasol was also one of the hallmarks of a district commissioner’s dignity:


  • The head attendant sat on the box next to the coachman and held against his hip the large gold parasol, a symbol of authority.

And crawling for the white man was mandatory as well:

  • The head attendant, his knees still bent in dutiful respect, scuttled across the room and in a crouching position offered the semi-formal uniform cap and a walking stick.

You may try that yourself!

  • The Commissioner met no one; the occasional Javanese, moving through the darkness, appeared momentarily from the shadows, causing the attendant to swing the glowing tip of his wick ostentatiously behind his master. Usually the Javanese understood and cowered to one side of the road. Sometimes, out of ignorance, fresh from his village, he failed to understand and walked anxiously by, looking apprehensively at the attendant, who kept on swinging and as he passed snapped a curse at him, because he — yokel as he was — had no manners. If a carriage or a trap approached, he again swung his shooting star through the evening, signalling to the coachman, who either stopped and alighted, or crouched in his vehicle, and while crouching steered towards the very edge of the road.

It must have been a comical sight: a plump man, sweaty in a heavy uniform among unworthy earthworms. R. A. Kartini, herself daughter of a regent, wrote about this:

  • Oh deity, would you only know how the crowd, who is now reverently staying aside from the brilliant sunshade, will soon laugh at you behind your back.3

The hormat-circular of April 16th, 1904 put an end to it. To the hormat-fuss towards Dutch government officials that is; not to the laughter, of course.

1. Louis Couperus, The hidden force, transl. Paul Vincent, New York 2012. Dutch original: De stille kracht (Volledige Werken Louis Couperus 17), Utrecht/Antwerpen 1989.
2. Multatuli (the pen name of Eduard Douwes Dekker), Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company, transl. Roy Edwards, Amherst 1982. Dutch original: Max Havelaar of de koffiveilingen der Nederlandsche Handelmaatschappy, Historisch-kritische uitgave, verzorgd door A. Kets-Vree, 2 vols., Assen/Maastricht 1992 (First edition Amsterdam 1860).
3. “O, godheid, wist gij maar, hoe de menigte, die nu eerbiedig voor de schitterende zonnescherm terzijde blijft, u straks achter uw rug uitlacht.” Quoted in Insulinde. Schetsen van Land en volk van Nederlandsch O.-Indië etc., Groningen 1924, p. 21.

Further reading:
The OrientOrientalism and Oriental Studies: the concepts.
The sword of Islam.
Orientalising the Dutch East Indies, or: Pimp your princes.
Dreaming of the OrientOrientalist painting.

Orientalising the Dutch East Indies, or: Pimp your princes

After the occupation of the Netherlands and their colonies by the French, and a period British occupation of Java, the Dutch were given back their possessions in Indonesia in 1816. Henceforth, the country was called Dutch East Indies (Nederlandsch Indië), which sounded like a declaration of intent rather than a reality. Large parts of the vast archipelago still had to be conquered (the Dutch of course spoke of ‘pacification’). It was not before the beginning of the 20th century that the last islands, Bali and Lombok, were integrated into the Dutch empire.
The Netherlands were a small country, whereas the Indies were enormous. How could that vast territory be governed by a handful of Dutchmen? The solution was to simply leave the indigenous princes and sultans governing their domains, feudally as they had always done, but since 1816 without waging war on each other and in dependence of the Dutch. In this manner, far less soldiers and civil servants from the Netherlands were needed, and it was expected that the native population would bear the foreign domination more easily when it only had to obey its own nobility.
However, most rulers were robbed of their princely status and were henceforth called ‘regent’. Well-known exceptions were two princes in Central-Java: Yogyakarta and Solo, who kept their princely dignity and also retained a considerable court. Next to the princes and the regents there was a modern European administration; beside every regent stood a district commissioner (‘resident‘) or assistant commissioner, who was supposed to be the regent’s ‚older brother‘. The Dutch officials gave well-intended recommendations, which naturally had to be obeyed. Each assistant commissioner had a controller under him, who travelled through the area to check how the regents were governing and how the administration of justice was exercised, and to hear complaints from the population.
How presentable were these (ex-)princes? Now that the princes and regents were incorporated into Dutch authority as Dutch civil servants of sorts, it was considered unacceptable that they neglected their appearance, their behaviour or their palaces, or squandered the money that was meant for the salaries of their staff. It was bad enough that they had feudal ways and were polygamous. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Dutch East Indian government apparently provided money and advisors to boost and embellish this native elite.
In Louis Couperus’ colonial novel The hidden force (1901),1 a ‘regent’ is described as follows:

The  Prince of Labuwangi, Raden Adipati Surio Sunario, was still young, just thirty, with a fine Javanese face like that of a supercilious wayang shadow puppet, and a little moustache with the tips carefully twisted, […]
The sarong that fitted smoothly around his hips hung in front in a bunch of flat, regular pleats that fluttered open; he wore a white starched shirt with diamond studs and a thin blue tie, over it a blue broadcloth uniform jacket with gold buttons bearing the letter W and the crown;2 on his bare feet he wore black patent leather pumps turned up at the front; the kerchief wound carefully round his head in narrow folds gave his delicate face a feminine look, but his black eyes, occasionally tired, kept flashing in an ecstatic trance. His blue and gold belt held the golden kris dagger, fixed at the small of his back; on his small, slim hand shone a gemstone, and a cigarette case of braided gold wire peeped out of his jacket pocket.

This text was written around 1900. It is obvious that the outward appearance of the regent is a mix of a Javanese and Dutch elements. The starched shirt, the tie, the broadcloth(!) uniform jacket with the gold buttons form the Dutch element. The sarong and the kerchief (blangkon) are traditional Javanese; how original the lacquered pumps are I do not know.
Indeed the 19th century had been a period of experimenting with the appearance of the local nobility and its entourage. It had taken some time before the results were satisfactory, and of course there would always be different outfits for different social functions

One of the most prestigious princes was (and still is) the ruler of Surakarta, also known as the Susuhunan of Solo, in Central Java. On a photograph from 1866, made by the then famous photographers Woodbury & Page, we see Prince Pakubuwono IX with his first wife in full Javanese costume. I cannot assess whether any European elements entered the jacket, other than the three decorations. On his head he carries the Javanese kerchief (blangkon); the sarong is also traditional.

Soesoehoenan Soerakarta Pakoe Boewono IX photo Woodbury 1866

Pakubuwono IX in 1866

On two photographs of 1870, the same prince looks different. On one of them he wears European clothing: a normal civilian suit with the traditional Javanese kerchief. On the other one he is dressed in a military uniform of high rank with a kerchief, while a plumed helmet lies ready on  to be put on top of it. Ready to leave for the battlefield? Both outfits are unconvincing. The bourgeois costume does not look good on him; it is just too … bourgeois. The military uniform does not make sense and is rather embarrassing. The prince did not have any military power; his only army consisted of a bunch of fake soldiers for ceremonial parades in and around the palace. These attempts to westernise his appearance can be considered unsuccessful.


Pakubuwono IX -1870 (1)


Pakubuwono IX -1870 (2)

Orientalism mixed with European elements is manifest in a photograph dating from 1897. It shows the son of the previous prince: Pakubuwono X, arm in arm with his ‘elder brother’, district commissioner W. de Vogel.


Pakubuwono X and Commissioner de Vogel

The velvet coat strongly reminds of a European dress suit, including the the decorations. Does the prince wear shorts of the same material underneath, or does the coat end at the knee and is there only a pair of stockings underneath? The shoes look both oriental and European. Also oriental are the two(!) ceremonial kris daggers. The upper part of the sarong fits around his waist, as usual, but it could not hang down in the normal way, for that would have made invisible the rest of the attire. Therefore it was draped in a fanciful but pointless manner.

At first sight the Susuhunan’s headgear seems a bit mysterious.


It looks like a kopiah with a windscreen behind it. It is indeed a product of fancy, but an older one, since an ancestor of his already wore such a thing around 1835. It must have been some military headgear; see at the end of this article

Between 1870 and 1897, the government apparently decided to boost the principalities, insofar they were still in existence, and to give the palaces and the princes themselves a more attractive appearance.

Who dressed the prince up like that? I suspect someone like the designer of the French Opera in Batavia, commissioned by the Dutch East Indies government. Perhaps the Colonial Exhibition of 1883 in Amsterdam encouraged the authorities to thoroughly occupy themselves with the outward appearance of the Indies. After all, the country should be no less decorative than the British or French colonies.

But not only the princes were pimped, their ‘armies’ were too. Since the end of the Java War in 1830 the princes had only fake soldiers, who were not supposed to participate in any war; they only played a part in parades in and around the palace complex. The next photograph shows a bunch of soldiers in Yogyakarta in 1888, their heads covered with a jumble of Dutch helmets, top hats and various other hats. The picture is touching: it shows the loss of the Javanese military power to the full. Apparently, the government had not found the time yet to embellish this sorry lot.


Soldiers, Yogyakarta 1888

In 1930 and 1931 they looked better. (Pseudo-)military uniforms became more and more attractive and oriental, as these pictures from Yogyakarta show:


Yogyakarta 1930


Yogyakarta, 1931

A recent photograph from Solo shows that uniforms are still developing. Interestingly enough, it also shows the military origin of Pakubuwono’s headgear.


‘Soldiers’ of Solo (Surakarta)

Because of the copyright laws I do not feel free to publish the beautiful and revealing photographs from Yogyakarta by Pitoyo Susanto, but I do recommend to click on this and this link! These pictures show how the uniforms became more picturesque and more oriental, even after the colonial period. According to Susanto, the headgear evolved from Napoleonic military headgear; indeed it reminds of a bicorne.

1. Louis Couperus, The Hidden Force, translated by Paul Vincent, New York 2012
2. W for Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands (r. 1898–1948).

Further reading:
The OrientOrientalism and Oriental Studies: the concepts.
The sword of Islam.
Dutch colonial rulers imitating Javanese princes.
Dreaming of the OrientOrientalist painting.