| Royal horse blanket

Tetum people
south Belu region, west Timor, Indonesia

Royal horse blanket 19th century
cotton, silk, natural dyes
215.0 (h) x 100.0 (w) cm
Purchased 1989
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 1989.846


Although not indigenous to Timor, small horses or ponies have been traded from the island to other parts of Indonesia since at least the 16th century. Locally, horses were important as pack animals and for rituals related to warfare and hunting. Prestigious textiles were made for the ruler’s horse.

The padded central section of this horse blanket cushioned the rider. It was created by joining bands of warp ikat fabric, where patterns were dyed into the threads prior to weaving, with dark indigo cloth woven with supplementary threads of imported Chinese silk, imparting a lustre that contrasts with the earthy locally-dyed threads. The stylised crocodile or lizard motifs are popular across island Southeast Asia and are still associated, in the Belu district of Timor, with members of noble families.

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