SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Hindu Buddhist Java: Examining the Evolution of Dress on Sculpture

Dr Lesley Pullen (Post-Doctoral Research Associate)

Date: 8 October 2019Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 8 October 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: RG01

Type of Event: Seminar

Avalokitésvara, 9th Century, Central Java, gift from a Raden Saleh to Emperor Franz Joset, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (formerly National History State Museum), 21cm, material unknown probably bronze, Inv. No. unknown.


This lecture examines a corpus of freestanding sculpture produced in Java during the Hindu Buddhist period from the 9th to 14th century whose elaborate dress displays textiles with detailed patterns. It places the statues into an historical and religious context in Central and East Java and relates them to a specific site or caṇḍi.

This surviving body of sculpture, with their textiles carved in stone in bas relief or cast in metal, varying in size and condition, now stands in archaeological sites across Java, and within museums in Indonesia and worldwide. Situated a few degrees south of the equator, the climate of Java has precluded any textiles from this period surviving in situ to the present. Considering supporting evidence from elsewhere in Asia, this lecture explores the origins of the medieval textiles depicted on these sculptures and the identity of the textile types represented. It also provides some analysis of specific motifs, such as those representing tantric iconography.

Avalokitésvara line drawing
Line drawing of the textile pattern evident on the lower garment of this Avalokitésvara.


The audio recording and PowerPoint presentation from Dr Lesley Pullen's seminar is available on the Backdoor Broadcasting Company website. The original line drawings in the PowerPoint file remain under embargo and have been temporarily removed.

Speaker Biography

Dr Lesley S Pullen, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, School of Arts, SOAS is an art historian. She was born in Medan, Sumatra and lived in Asia for thirty years. Lesley arrived in London in 1997 and completed at SOAS a Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art in 1998, a Taught Masters in 2008, and a PhD in 2017. She is currently converting her doctoral thesis “Representation of Textiles on Classical Javanese Sculpture” into a monograph. Her ongoing work includes research into the textiles and ornament of India, Central Asia and China, and how these are reflected in Southeast Asian material art. She tutors and lectures on Southeast Asia art history courses at SOAS and the V&A Museum.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies

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