Restored Sudjojono painting

(JP/Indah Setiawati)
(JP/Indah Setiawati)

Wisaksono Noerandi stands before a painting by the late S. Sudjojono, relating a story to an audience gathered at the Jakarta History Museum about the time the noted painter asked for permission to use Wisaksono's face in a painting.

The museum unveiled the newly restored painting, titled "The Battle between Sultan Agung and Jan Pieterszoon Coen", on Wednesday.

"While I was watching Bedaya Ketawang dance at Surakarta Palace in 1974, he suddenly approached me and said 'Is it OK if I use your face in my painting?'," Wisaksono recounted.

He said he had forgotten the incident until visiting the Jakarta History Museum with his four children some three years later.

"My youngest son shouted 'That's father in the painting!' and I was so surprised to see my face on one of the Indonesian warriors," he said.

Beginning Wednesday, the public can view the 34-year-old painting, the largest recorded oil painting in the country, restored after a nine-month conservation project.

The restoration of the 3 X 10 meter painting was a joint venture between the Jakarta administration's office of conservation and the Tropen Museum in Amsterdam, at a cost of nearly Rp 400 million (US$43,010). Some Rp 300 million came from the Dutch embassy, said Eni Prihantini, head of the conservation office.

Two art conservationists from Singapore -- Lawrence Chin and Anthony Lau -- worked on the project as well.

"The greatest challenge we faced was the size of the painting. It's the biggest I've ever worked on," Lawrence said.

Another problem was persistent moisture on the wall on which the painting was displayed, he said, adding such humidity can damage wooden frames, canvases and eventually paintings themselves.

"That's an engineering problem that every museum faces, especially those housed in old buildings, which means we should also conserve museum buildings," Lawrence added.

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