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Semar with White Face and Yellow Body



Semar is the guardian god-clown of Java and the wisest of all the characters of the wayang kulit shadow puppet plays that tell stories derived from the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Semar is a Javanese addition to the Indian epics and is an essential character in all shadow puppet plays derived from the Mahabharata. Semar and his four sons (Gareng, Petruk, Bagong) have a whole act devoted to them in shadow puppet plays. The comic part is called the goro-goro and happens after the first battle in which often the righteous warrior loses. After the warrior receives advice from the wise Semar he returns to battle and claims victory.

Semar was created by the Supreme God from an egg. The shell of the egg became Antaga who was to teach wisdom to overseas kings and also evil kings such as Rahwana in the Ramayana. The egg-white became Semar who was to nurture and educate and guide the righteous kings of Java and the Pandawas in Indraprasta / Amarta in the Mahabharata stories. The yolk became Batara Guru / Syiwa who rules the council of the gods in Heaven. Semar is full of gentle wit and deep wisdom and his most powerful weapon is a smelly fart so potent that all the members of the council of the gods fear it. Amongst the gods Semar has an enemy in Durga who always gets beaten. On earth Semar is a village chief in Java. In Javanese mysticism Semar represents the perfect human. Although he is referred to as a man he is male neither is he female and his name also means 'misty', 'hazy', 'undefined'.


This particular Semar has a very special face. The careful carver has indeed carved the spirit of the wise Semar into the face of this statue. It was carved out of a stump of teak probably sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century. The body of this Semar is painted pink using an animal glue based pigment. The royal color yellow used here indicates that Semar here is attending his masters in the palace and that is why Semar's right hand is pointing down indicating that the good aristocrats must care for their subjects. The details of the carving of the sumping ear decorations indicate that this was carved by the older generation and could not be younger than 1950. He stands around 38 cm tall.

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