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Lotus, Sumatra
Lotus, Sumatra
Not on display
Wool, Cotton; Slit- And Interlocked- Tapestry Weave
203.2 x 233.7 cm (80 x 92 in.)
Object Type:
North America
Accession Number:
Acquisition Date:
Credit Line:

Gift of Mark Adams and Beth van Hoesen honoring Anna Bennett, her husband Ralph, and the volunteers who saved the museums' tapestry collection

Exhibition History:

The Fabric of Life: 150 Years of Northern California Fiber Art History, San Francisco State University Art Department Gallery, 9/21/97 - 10/16/97
A Collection Rediscovered: European Tapestries, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum, Galleries 36-37, 1992
Contemporary Fiber and Art to Wear, 1999
From the Exotic to the Mystical: Textile Treasures from the Permanent Collection, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum, 5/4 - 8/4/2013

A large, fully opened lotus blossom in shades of intense pink is brilliantly illuminated against a red background. The lotus, a universal symbol of Buddhism, rises up from the mud to flower in the light. It is associated with purity and beauty, as well as with nourishment, for every part is used as food. Even to Western eyes, the lotus is a miracle, at once fragile and strong, coolly luminous in the humid heat of its surroundings. The lotus that inspired the tapestry grew on the shoes of Lake Toba, Sumatra, in a village of the Batak people. Batak houses are built on a foundation of logs put together in log-cabin fashion. Batak builders divide the cut ends of the logs into quarters and paint them alternately black and white. The two circles in the lower corners of the tapestry embody this design idea, but black and white lines, applied vertically and horizontally, have been substituted to maintain a separation from the background. The small ocher-bronze spots beneath the blossom suggest the leaves of a small water plant often found with the lotus. Like the repeating pattern of an Indonesian fabric, dark spots enliven the red ground, interspersed with fine upward-moving lines that evoke the steaming atmosphere. Two vertical bars near the top function as an architectural element, their orange color a clear reference to the Orient. From Anna Gray Bennett, "Five Centuries of Tapestry: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco" (San Francisco: Chronicle Books; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1976; repr. 1992): p. 314.