Yogyakarta, renowned as a major cultural hub of Javanese society, serves as a significant reference point for the people residing in Yogyakarta and its vicinity. The customs and traditions of the Javanese community, with a particular focus on the Solo and Yogyakarta regions, have historically been deeply rooted in the milieu of the Mataram Yogyakarta Palace, especially during the 16th and 17th centuries. Within the precincts of the Yogyakarta Palace, a rich element of Javanese traditions has endured, shaped by the influences of Hindu and Buddhist religions. This cultural heritage encompasses not only artistic and literary elements but also an array of rituals and religious practises. This cultural heritage is the practise of bridal makeup, known as Paes Ageng.
Yogyakarta acclaimed five distinct styles of bridal makeup, each characterised by its unique purpose, form, and makeup techniques. These styles hold paramount significance in reflecting the intricacies of Javanese bridal aesthetics. The five distinct styles of Yogyakarta bridal makeup are as follows: Corak Paes Ageng, or kebesaran; Corak Paes Ageng Jangan Menir; Corak Yogya Putri, or Corak Sepasaran; Corak Kesatrian Ageng; and Corak Kesatrian (Wibowo 1981).
Although the attire and makeup of the Paes Ageng tradition in the Yogyakarta and Solo Palaces could only be worn by the royal family, in Yogyakarta, it was only during the reign of Sultan HB IX in 1940 that civilians outside the gate of Keraton were allowed to wear this attire and style of makeup during wedding ceremonies. According to Indonesia.go.id, paes, or pepaes, is a term used in traditional Javanese culture to denote the art of embellishing and enhancing the appearance of the bride, particularly focusing on the forehead. This makeup technique involves intricate and skillful ornamentation to create an elegant presentation for the bride during the wedding ceremony. By meticulously adorning the bride's forehead, pepaes aims to accentuate the bride’s beauty and grace, ensuring a visual captivation and cultural significance of the bride's appearance within the context of Javanese customs and traditions.
(Photographed by Kassian Cephas)
The Paes Ageng style represents the highest or noblest form of bridal makeup within the Javanese culture, hence the words paes, meaning to embellish, and ageng, which translates to agung in Indonesian or the noble one in English. Originally, it was only worn by the descendants of Keraton during grand wedding ceremonies within the Yogyakarta Palace; this includes during the panggih pengantin, a wedding sequence of procession ceremonies where the bride and groom formally meet for the first time. This momentous event symbolises the union of two families and the beginning of a new chapter in the couple's lives.
The de-accesion of the Paes Ageng aesthetic from royal practice was pioneered by the late royal keraton makeup artist Ibu R.A. Rochaya Donolobo et al., who requested permission from Ngarso Dalem Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX to bring Paes Ageng and the Keraton wedding tradition outside the walls of the palace so that commoners could partake in the cultural heritage.
"To ensure the enduring remembrance and preservation of Paes Ageng, it is crucial for the community to continue cherishing and conserving this traditional art form. Paes Ageng represents the traditional makeup and attire worn by royal wedding couples and holds profound meanings and moral values, including ethics, or tata krama, as well as noble etiquette (unggah-ungguh)." R.A. Rochaya Donolobo stated.
Thus, Paes Ageng stands as a precious cultural heritage that demands dissemination and safeguarding for upcoming generations. The components of makeup play a crucial role in the entirety of Paes Ageng, as they are intimately connected with the bride's facial appearance. During the early 20th century, the cosmetics used in royal wedding makeup still employed natural ingredients such as boreh and pidih. Boreh, for instance, was made from crushed rice mixed with turmeric, and it served as a foundation for facial powder applied to the bride's body. On the other hand, pidih was derived from wax blended with the essence of dandang gendis leaves (clinacanthus nutans) (Putri, 2022). These practises reflect the local wisdom of utilising natural ingredients in bridal makeup, which has become an integral part of the Paes Ageng tradition within Yogyakarta's royal culture.
(Image source: Private Archive)
The cengkorongan signifies the expression of wanda luruh, which refers to a tranquil appearance of the bride, as all pointed ends of the paes are directed downward (Sahroji, n.d.). The cengkorongan is formed and thickened with a dense black liquid called pidih, and the edges of the cengkorongan are lined with gold powder called prada. It is the contrasting colours of pidih and prada that made the cengkorongan stand out as a distinct pattern. Alongside the cengkorongan, there are other components of the makeup that form the characteristic style, such as the forked eyebrows, known as menjangan ranggah, which resemble the antlers of a deer, as well as the eye stitches, or the lines extending from the corners of the eyes to the temples. Such an eyebrow shape conveys the meaning of encouraging the bride to remain agile and alert when facing challenges and to always be vigilant, like a deer.
In addition, there are specific accessories that should not be overlooked, namely the kinjengan ornament in the form of a golden dragonfly and the ketep made of prada (gold plates). The bride's hair is tied or coiled into a round shape resembling the pomelo fruit (referred to as gelung bokor). The hair is then further embellished with hair accessories, including five pethat mentul, or hanging ornaments. From 1900 to 1939, Paes Ageng's makeup within the palace continued to adhere to established traditions (Tienuk, 2013). The makeup style of Paes Ageng would only experience changes as time passed, along with the existence of modernization.
Upon leaving the confines of Keraton, the preservation mission within the palace relied solely on oral traditions, which posed a challenge since the palace lacked dedicated abdi dalem (courtiers) specifically tasked with makeup application. However, the development of makeup artistry in this context was initiated by makeup artists brought in from outside the palace. These fresh ideas brought about a rejuvenation of traditional practises, leading to an evolutionary change in the adat, or traditions, of the palace. The palace, as the cultural hub, remained a role model for its community. The year 2002 marked a turning point in the development of Paes Ageng, as it became evident that the palace deliberately and openly began to follow fashion trends and increasingly advanced makeup techniques. The prevalence and preservation of these cultural aspects in Yogyakarta have been quite conducive to maintaining the region's cultural identity and fostering a deep appreciation for the historical and traditional heritage of fashion and beauty.
MurtiadjiR, R. Sri Supadmi. 2013. Tata Rias Pengantin & Adat Pernikahan Gaya Yogyakarta Klasik - CORAK PAES AGENG. Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
Putri, Verren Aldina. 2022. “Perubahan Paes Ageng Keraton Yogyakarta 1900-2005.” Putri | Bandar Maulana. 2022. https://e-journal.usd.ac.id/index.php/BandarMaulana/article/view/5803.
Rifki, Tienuk. 2013. Tata Rias Pengantin Yogyakarta - Corak Paes Ageng. Gramedia Pustaka Utama.aQ
Sahroji, Ahmad. n.d. “Mengintip Filosofi Paes Ageng Kanigaran dari Yogyakarta.” ERA.ID. https://era.id/culture/111087/mengintip-filosofi-paes-ageng-kanigaran-dari-yogyakarta.