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Old 14th February 2005, 12:15 PM   #19
DAHenkel
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I am afraid I am going to have to disagree strongly with most of the comments made to date regarding this keris.

Please note first off that this particular style of keris is a typical and well documented one in the Balinese stable and such hilts are the norm. Figural hilts do occur but they in fact are the exception rather than the rule with the godoan (gayaman) sheath style. Assuming that a relatively "plain" hilt style is incorrect and thus a later addition is completely unfounded. Just because the piece has a gold pendok does not dictate that it must therefore have a fancy golden hilt as well. In fact, as this example shows, quite the opposite was just as often the case.

Unlike we modern Philistines, who can't appreciate anything unless its studded with gold and precious stones, previous generations of keris lovers clearly had a great love for the qualities of wood. Note first of all the extraordinary precision and finess of the workmanship of the hilt and the rare beauty of the wood grain used to make it. (No Tom, its not magic marker)You will not find another one like it in a thousand. Juxtaposed against the flash and finery of the gold pendok, the wood stands up on its own and provides a contrast for and a foil to the precious metals. Sadly, this sort of subtlety is lost on most today.

There are several documented examples of kerises simmilar to the one Wolviex posted. Images in Hamzuri (1983) Fig's 11 - 14, pp 110-12 and Hamzuri (1984) pp's 33 and 43, (Note that the image on p. 33 is reversed due to an upside down negative, the same piece on p. 43 is correct) document a pair of examples in the Indonesian National Museum's collection, while Van Duuren's bibliography has another fantastic example from the Tropen on p. 72, which is also shown in the Orange Nassau book as well.

Topengan are generally held to be representations of the divine demon Kala, in some areas also refered to as Banaspati (pron. Bonaspati). Kala was a powerful protective figure believed to have been appointed by Shiva as a temple guardian.

As for the blade of this piece. Clearly it is of a far "inferior" quality of workmanship to some of the flashier examples of Balinese keris. That said, many of you seem to have forgotten the mystical side of keris belief and the fact that sometimes quite ordinary blades were held in extremely high esteem. Sometimes these were highly prized heirloom piece, or were believed to be of some considerable age or perhaps were held to be particularly powerful talismans. The quality of the workmanship of the blade is often - as it very well could be in this case - completely independent of the rest of the keris and assuming that such a keris is a fabrication completely misses the mark.

The one image posted that shows the fit of the blade is not perfect but does indicate a good fit. Perhaps Wolviex could post another picture or two showing the fit of the blade in the scabbard before we go assuming the piece is a re-fit. I'd be rather surprised in the case of this keris that a relatively small, early and more Javanese-like blade would be large enough to completely fill the cavity left by a more typical Balinese blade. Its rare enough to find a re-fit that works perfectly (although of course it must have happened, nor would we know it eh?) and in this case I suspect darn near impossible. Also, it would be interesting and useful to know when this keris entered the collection and whether it was an aquisition or a donation.
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