Book Review
The Javanese Kris
Isaäc Groneman with a preface and introduction by David van Duren
C. Zwartenkot Art Books and KITLV Press, 2009

288 pp.; 300 colour and b/w illustrations, 15 b/w field photographs. Cloth in dust jacket. Price: 75,00 euro.

The Javanese Kris is the first complete English translation of Der Kris der Javaner. Isaäc Groneman published this penetrating study in the authoritative periodical Internationales Archiv für Ethnographie between 1910 and 1913.

The English translations of his articles titled 'Pure nickel as pamor' and 'The Njirami, or the annual Purification of Hereditary Weapons and other Pusakas in Central Java' have been added to The Javanese Kris.

In his pioneering research Groneman painstakingly, step for step, describes how the blacksmith (empu) Karja di Krama forged five krisses with the archetype pamor patterns: wos wutah, blaraq ngirid, sekar pala, sekar ngadeg and sekar temu. He also reports at great length on the blacksmith's workshop, on the tools applied when producing krisses and on forging experiments whereby, for instance, bicycle metal that contains nickel replaces the traditional iron extracted from a meteoric that fell to earth near candi Prambanan at the end of the eighteenth century.

Moreover, Groneman pays extensive attention to the many shapes (dapur) of the straight and waved kris blades, shapes of kris hilts, kris sheaths etc. He furthermore provides us with a theoretical account dealing with the kris as a historical and cultural phenomenon including the categories of kris types introduced in N. L. Winter's publication written in Javanese (1871) and a list of 118 types of shapes presented in a manuscript kept at the kraton of Yogyakarta.

Isaäc Groneman delivered a leading study on the Javanese kris. Anno 2009, a hundred years later, the significance of his work remains unchallenged.

In The Javanese Kris an abundance of information and illustrations have been added to the original text.
Firstly, a preface and an extensive introduction by David van Duuren. In it he discusses Isaäc Groneman's tireless efforts aimed at preserving the art of pamor forging that was slowly but surely disappearing at the start of the twentieth century.
Secondly, as many as 140 excellent photographs show krisses, kris hilts and kris boards originating from the collections of the three largest ethnographic museums and from private collectors in The Netherlands.

The Javanese Kris counts 50 watercolours presenting more than 100 types of kris shapes and b/w line drawings depicting more than 80 types of kris shapes. These illustrations date from 1840, 1850, 1858 and 1920 are published for the first time.

To summarize, The Javanese Kris is an excellent publication, very detailed and extremely exploratory. Its contents includes state-of-the-art photographs and comes with an appropriate lay out. A kris collector cannot do without this reference work which also appeals greatly to all other aficionados of Indonesian art. This book is indeed a pleasure to the eye and thus inviting to be leafed through regularly. Highly recommended!

Albert G. van Zonneveld


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