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Asian art

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Temptation of Arjuna ['Arjunawiwaha']



Mangku Mura


circa 1920 - 1999


Painting has traditionally been regarded as the highest form of artistic expression in Bali, in part due to its importance in sacred ceremonies where paintings were used to demarcate the ritual space. The most popular style of traditional Balinese painting is known as the Kamasan style named after a village in the Klungkung regency of the southeast coast of Bali. The Kamasan style drew its inspiration from the Javanese 'wayang' or leather shadow puppets, hence the style of these paintings are characterised by a flat two-dimensionality with a limited palate of colours, usually red, orange and brown with blue. The painters who work in this style formed themselves into communities or guilds known as 'sangging' which were traditionally employed by the court of the Dewa Agung, nominally the highest king of the Balinese courts. These artists were generally anonymous, however, this work was painted by the artist Mangku Mura who is best known as the artist commissioned by the collector Anthony Forge to paint a number of works which are now held in the collections of the Australian Museum. Mangku Mura was also responsible for the painting and decoration of the Klungkung courthouse (Kerta Gosa) in 1960.

This painting is stylistically and thematically typical of the Kamasan style.The 'Temptation of Arjuna' refers to a story that is particular to the Balinese tradition. According to this myth Arjuna, the hero and protagonist of the Mahabharata was something of a womaniser whose purity was tested when seven beautiful women were sent to tempt the meditating hero. (The artist has painted extra temptresses to 'balance the picture'). The 'Temptation of Arjuna' is a favourite story in Bali as it reminds humans of their foibles. This painting was done using traditional materials, the outline and composition being executed by Mangku Mura, his daughter being responsible for some of the colour wash.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, June 2003.


Other Title

Arjuna's penance

Place where the work was made

Kamasan Bali Indonesia



Media category


Materials used

ink and natural dyes on cotton


84.5 x 100.0 cm

Signature & date

Signed verso in Balinese (untranslated) and English: "MangkuMura. / Br. Siku. / Kamasan. / KlungKung. / Bali...[illeg.]"


Gift of Chris and Evi Reid 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Mangku Mura

Works in the collection