Join Date: May 2006
With apologies, I've taken this out of the quote frame to make it easier to work with.
A.G.--- ie, what is a fair price for a keris?
IP --- Yes, but not the focus of this forum. My family were old fashioned traders. Value is a compulsive habit and understood to be realativistic.
A.G. -- Yeah, we don't talk about actual examples of what things are worth, our focus is, I believe, mostly the classification & cultural area of enquiry. However, I do not believe that there is any restriction on discussing how an estimated value is arrived at.
This is pretty much tied up with perspective.
The value of anything is determined by what a willing buyer will pay and what a willing seller will accept.
This depends upon market forces and the personalities involved. But there are valuers in all fields who will give an expert opinion on what something is worth on the current market, these people usually charge a fee that is validated by their personal experience, and that experience can take several lifetimes to gain.
For a collector of anything, as distinct from a dealer, that collector's only protection is hard won experience and dealing with an honest seller who has a reputation that he cannot afford to lose.
I would most gently suggest that ebay and unknown internet sellers are perhaps not the best place to begin one's learning experience.
A.G. --- ie, when was the blade made, when were other components made ?
IP --- Yes and yes.
A. G. --- insofar as the blade is concerned this is to a very large degree a matter of hands on experience, you cannot learn much about it from anything that is in print, you need a very good face to face teacher and access to a lot of keris blades, even then it can be close to impossible to arrive at a reliable estimate.
With the other components it is a matter of being able to judge things like method of manufacture and patina and whether or not the object in question has been fiddled with. Again, books will not help.
A. G. --- ie, how was the blade made, how were other components made?
IP --- Yes and yes.
A. G. --- the technology of keris blade construction is pretty simple, it is basically straight-forward blade smithing, but with archaic technology. Re-prints of old blacksmithing text books, modern knife maker's texts (Jim Hrisoulas). You can learn the theory from books, learning the practice is a bit more difficult.
Hilts & scabbards are just carving --- wood, horn, bone, etc--- where metal is involved it involves fabrication and chasing, either hand engraving or embossing, repoussť has been used but it is rare. Plenty of books around that deal with these skills.
Reasons for motifs:-
A. G. --- ie, cultural and societal significance of design & ornamental motifs used in the keris?
IP --- Yes. The mixture of art, ascetics and narrative the artist wanted to show, and purpose both ergonomics and supernatural appeal. I saw a book on Hindu iconography you listed and I have been wanting to read Elgood's book on Hindu ritual.
A. G. --- This is not really something that can reduced to print on a page. The same thing can have different meanings in different places & times and for different people. I personally believe that it is not really possible to come to even a partial understanding of the motifs involved in Javanese & Balinese society & culture unless one is embedded in one of relevant societies, and even then, it is necessary to seek guidance from the (now) very few people who might have an understanding of these things. Much of the knowledge has been lost. Very wide and continuous study in this field can assist, but it is certain that an enormous amount of knowledge just does not exist any longer.
Having said that, there is a fair bit of comment on various motifs scattered through a lot of books, but how much is truly accurate, and in what context, is open to question. If English is the only language available, then I don't think there is anything in print in English that I could recommend.
As a cultural icon:-
A. G. --- probably links back to motifs, both can probably be considered together
Societal differentiation & background:-
A. G. --- this involves anthropological & sociological study.
IP --- Yes it will. Lots.
A. G. --- perhaps the best place to start with this is:-
Wiener Margaret J. "Visible and Invisible Realms",
ISBN 0-226-88582-8/1,The University of Chicago Press
Use as a weapon:-
A. G. --- this covers a very broad field and involves a lot of opinion & very little fact, Don Draeger might be the place to start, but the enquiry should really be narrowed down to precisely what is being sought
IP --- IDK martial arts are a very nebulous subject for me. I'm not sure I will ever have much of a grip on it.
A.G. --- the modern interpretations of keris related martial arts are a field unto themselves, the use of the keris as a weapon to kill or wound in both modern and ancient times bears very little relationship to the use of the keris in modern martial arts. How it was used in times past can only be guessed at, but ancient literary works and historical texts from the last couple of hundred years do give some guidance. How it was used during the era of Konfrontasi and the struggle for independence in modern Indonesia is now probably only known to those who might have been involved or who have spoken with others about their experiences. I do not know of anything in print about this.
The Javanese philosophy of the use of any weapon seems to me to owe a lot to Sun Tzu and in general to Chinese philosophies.
A. G. --- if classification for a collector based in the modern world outside S.E. Asia, Jean Greffioz' recent book is hard to go past. If classification in a different sense, tighter specification is needed.
IP --- What do you use as your basis for classification or do you use several systems in parallel?
A. G. --- it depends upon what I need to classify, if you can put the question to me in a specific way, I will give a specific response. This whole thing of classification is almost endless. It is pretty easy to classify some things in generally accepted terms, but then the classification needs to be understood by the person or people it is directed at:- I do not necessarily classify something in the same way for collectors in the Western World, as I would for a dealer living in Solo, Central Jawa.