Each artist has his or her masterpiece, according to his or her own version or to the critics and observers. What are the indicators used to conclude that certain work of arts is a masterpiece? When a masterpiece has its historical value, how conservation contributes to its preservation?
There is no doubt that Sindudarsono Sudjojono is an important figure in Indonesia’s art history. As an important artist, he produces a number of masterpieces. One of them is Pertempuran Sultan Agung Melawan Jan Pieterzoon Coen or The Battle of Sultan Agung against Jan Pieterzoon Coen, which is considered as an important masterpiece by his family. Governor of Jakarta in 1966-1977 Ali Sadikin commissioned this work of art. Just like Michelangelo’s fresco in Sistine Chapel commissioned by Pope Julius II and Pope Clement VII, a commissioned work can become a masterpiece.
- Every work of art has its own story and uniqueness behind its production. This includes the painting of The Battle of Sultan Agung against Jan Pieterzoon Coen. This is an example how quality and grace of a work of art can be revealed from a theme commissioned by others.
- Indicators to appraise a particular work of art go beyond technical mastery and aesthetic beauty. The quality of research done by artists as they create certain piece of art – especially those with rich historical narratives – is one of the indicators that contribute to the value of the work. Sudjojono did this through his research for his work of art commissioned by the Historical Museum.
- Created in 1973, Sudjojono’s painting has endured a series damages due to poor display room conditions. Restoration efforts, in collaboration with other countries, have been done, yet the fading colours still cannot be restored.
When working on Ali Sadikin’s commission, this Indonesia’s painting maestro carried out his research to the Netherland so he would be able to complete his The Battle of Sultan Agung against Jan Pieterzoon Coen. Its grand size, detailed research and narrative content of the painting has led a number of experts to view this as Sudjojono’s masterpiece. Unfortunately, even though it had gone through a number of restorations, its condition has changed from the original condition when this painting was displayed for the fist time in Historical Museum. Nothing can be done to the fading colours, and even the current situation of the display room still poses threats to the future of this painting.