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Old 14th May 2022, 02:41 AM   #1
Ganapati
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Default Bali keris of unknown origin

Bought from an old collector around 80 whose grandfather collected from Indonesia for almost 80 years
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Old 14th May 2022, 03:50 AM   #2
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The keris itself looks to be very nice, old, good condition, 19th century, classic.

The gambar of the wrongko (the top cross part) looks as if it could be original to the blade.

The pendok & the cup upon which the hilt sits are not Balinese, the hilt is a modern era carving that mixes elements of the Balinese Nawa Sari form and elements of an elephant form probably intended as Ganesha, which of course it is not, not particularly recent, maybe 1960's-1970's, and probably done in Sumenep.

My guess is that this keris was redressed in Surabaya, it looks like the sort of thing that Pak Hardiono of Jln. Ngagel Tomo used to sell.
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Old 14th May 2022, 04:05 AM   #3
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I was surprised to see the face of Lord Ganesha on this style of ukiran.
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Old 14th May 2022, 01:54 PM   #4
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Nothing much to add to what Alan said. I do really like the blade. The hilt is a strange mix for me. Also i can't recall seeing a wrapped gandar like that on Bali keris. If i knew what the wood looked like underneath i would almost be inclined to remove it. It does look a bit loose in the wrapping, especially the upper part so you could possible push it aside a little and have a peek.
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Old 14th May 2022, 02:37 PM   #5
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Yes David, its a nice keris, but a dealer who knew very little about keris got hold of it along the way and dressed it incorrectly, as it is, it is regrettably a very bad joke, almost an insult.

The hilt should be removed and put in a bottom drawer somewhere, then replaced with one that is free of insult. Clearly the carver had no idea at all of what he was supposed to be carving.

The pendok should be removed and if the gandar is even halfway passable it could live without the pendok. The gandar could be lacquered if it is a bit ordinary, lacquer would be better than what is on it now.
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Old 14th May 2022, 07:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post
I was surprised to see the face of Lord Ganesha on this style of ukiran.
I have a similar hilt that shows a Ganesha like face with the right hand position of Nawa Sari. While my blade is indeed an older one i suspect the hilt is likely kamardikan, so may be like this one a mixing of characters.
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Old 14th May 2022, 09:37 PM   #7
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Do yourself a favour David, and replace it.

Wrapped up and into the back of the bottom drawer.
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Old 14th May 2022, 10:04 PM   #8
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Do yourself a favour David, and replace it.

Wrapped up and into the back of the bottom drawer.
It could happen one day. This keris needs a bit before it would be ready for court wear anyway. I found it rusting away in a curio shop window with no sheath. So that is more likely a necessity before i think about replacing the hilt. But no worries. I have no illusions that this is an good hilt. Just wanted to show that such combinations have been done more than once.
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Old 14th May 2022, 11:42 PM   #9
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Yeah, we've had the Bali Hilt discussion more times than once in the past.

There are a number of factors involved, I personally think that the major one is that most hilts in the modern era have not been carved by religiously conscious people, and only done for decorative effect, but there is the other thing too:- a lot of so-called "Balinese Carving" is actually done in other places where wage rates are lower.

I used to know a young bloke in Solo whose father carved perfectly beautiful small sculptures that were sold through a couple of Ubud galleries as Balinese. The Sumenep craftsmen have been carving for the Balinese market for years.

I might have seen this particular "Nawanesha" combination before, but I don't remember it, I tend to quickly pass over things for sale in Bali that are outside the bounds of tradition.
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Old 15th May 2022, 03:01 PM   #10
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Just to stay on the topic of discussion I post a photo of two wooden Madura hilts made for Bali market
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Old 15th May 2022, 11:00 PM   #11
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But they can produce fine quality hilts in Madura too Marco. There is a carver lives away from Sumenep, I forget the name of the place, "Bhu---" something or other, and his work is very good indeed.

Actually, the best Balinese carvers have priced themselves out of the market, and I'm not talking just keris hilts, I'm talking the entire swath of Balinese carving.

The recognised Grand Master of Balinese hilts --- I will not mention his name --- is now so expensive that he really only needs to sell one hilt a year to have a comfortable lifestyle.

His son --- or maybe its his son-in-law, I'm not clear on this --- has jacked up his prices into the realm of major art works too. Not as expensive as the Old Man, but too expensive for me.

In Solo the wood carving industry is centered on the village of Serinan, carvers from Jepara on the north coast came there years ago and settled when the competition in Jepara became too tough. All that very high quality mahogany & teak furniture that we see in expensive shops all across the world mostly comes from Serinan, and a niche market in Serinan is the making of fine Balinese style carvings, produced at a fraction of the cost that the Balinese carvers ask.

When I say "Serinan" I'm not talking just about that village, I'm referring to all the carvers in the broader Solo area who are associated with the Serinan trade.

I used to buy from a dealer in Badung, he passed about ten years ago, I dealt with him for around 35 years. He used to get very angry with both the local carvers for increasing their prices, and with the people who had generated the stuff that was produced in other places in Bali style. To his way of thinking both these groups of people were undermining the local economy in Bali.
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Old 16th May 2022, 05:07 AM   #12
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The complete dress seems to be made for a Sumatran kris (with this buntut). It is a disrespectful sarong.
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Old 16th May 2022, 06:21 AM   #13
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Just the pendok Paul, the atasan or gambar is older Bali, the hilt is a bit of a mix of two different genuinely Balinese themes, the cup upon which the hilt sits is a sort invention, as is the treatment of the covering for the gandar.

It is what we might call a montage, a keris composed of various unrelated pieces.

The disrespect I consider to be associated with the hilt.

This sort of thing is more common than we might wish, it usually occurs when an uneducated dealer gets hold of something genuine that he wants to extract the max dollar for, and it then gets sold to a keen collector who is still learning the ropes.

I was bitten a few times a long time ago, and I'd bet most of us were.
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Old 16th May 2022, 07:55 AM   #14
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Afterthought

I just re-read this comment, & it sounds harsh, it is not intended to be.

This is a nice keris, the dress is pretty much less than nice, but it can be easily improved.

It is the keris itself that is important, this situation might be likened to a true gentleman who is momentarily down on his luck and has been forced to dress in whatever he could pick up from a Salvation Army table.
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Old 16th May 2022, 09:25 AM   #15
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See a similar style of silver pendok with a flat buntut for a Bali/ Lombok kris and which has some age.
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Old 16th May 2022, 12:33 PM   #16
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Jean, the keris is Balinese or Balinese style, the atasan is Balinese style, the pendok is not Balinese, and the hilt is more likely to be Lombok than Bali.

There is perhaps a possibility that this keris was put together in Lombok, but my personal opinion is that it is much more likely to have been put together in Surabaya.

I find it very difficult to accept the embossing work on that pendok as being from a Balinese hand.

I did not nominate a particular person in my earlier post without a basis for so doing.

Bear this in mind Jean:- a buntut is added to a pendok or a gandar for a functional reason, it is not placed there for ornamentation. The reason for its existence is prevent dislodging the scabbard when the keris is drawn, and Balinese keris have no need for that buntut because they are not worn in a way where a buntut would serve any functional purpose.

However, many collectors do find the existence of a buntut to be very cool indeed, so dealers who understand the collector market have in the past sometimes added a buntut to a scabbard in order to make a keris more attractive to a buyer.

Over a long time I have known a lot of Indonesian dealers personally, and other dealers through trade and correspondence. You might find this a little bit surprising, but prior to the birth of the internet and the rapid spread of keris knowledge & belief through that medium, most dealers whom I encountered knew precious little about the keris and keris-like objects they were dealing in. They understood their buyers very well, and they understood the market place, but their knowledge of the keris was not particularly wonderful.

On a similar note, are those stones or pastes in the uwer pink? Do you think that this uwer would be fitted to a keris for wear and/or use by a Balinese man? Can we name the colours that are permissible for the stones in an uwer intended for use in traditional Balinese society?

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Old 16th May 2022, 01:34 PM   #17
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Hello Alan,
The sampir of this kris was replaced by the Dutch seller, it was in sampiran/ bancihan/ jamprahan style originally.
I have no clue about the origin of the pendok as well but it is nicely made.
The blade & hilt are probably from Lombok indeed. The stones on the uwer seem to be low quality rubies, these are quite commonly found with good quality silver uwers.
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Old 17th May 2022, 12:01 AM   #18
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Thank you Jean for this beautiful illustration of the point I was trying to make. It is sometimes difficult to understand why something --- in this case a keris --- varies from what we expect to see, but with this keris that you have presented you have the answers to some of the questions one might ask if this particular keris were to be encountered.

I would like to talk about the component parts of this keris just a little more.

Starting with the atasan of the wrongko.

I use the word "atasan" for two reasons, firstly it was invariably the word that the tukang wrongkos whom I knew used to refer to this part of the wrongko, secondly it is from the word "atas" which is a very common word in BI that everybody can immediately grasp, "atasan" applied to the top cross part of the wrongko is readily understood as the "part above", or the "top part".

Although many keris books will tell us that in Jawa the correct name for this part is "gambar", my experience is that this word, meaning "picture" is rarely used in reference to a wrongko, but is more often used in reference to the carvings of nagas, singo barongs & puthuts in the actual keris itself.

The word "sampir" has the sense of something that is hanging, it occurs in Javanese, Balinese & BI and in each language it has related but slightly different principal understandings. I have never heard "sampir" used in relation to keris scabbards in either Jawa or Bali. However, it does appear to be the correct word to use when we refer to a Malay style of wrongko top.

You have mentioned that this atasan was "--- replaced by the Dutch seller ---". I am unclear if you mean that the Dutch seller carved this atasan himself, or if he gave to somebody else to carve or to have carved.

If he carved it himself it is a remarkable achievement, if it was carved in Indonesia I would need to carefully consider where the carving was done. My first impression when I looked at this atasan was that it was just a whisker too short across and a whisker too fat, a bit like the Bali style wrongkos that come from Madura & East Jawa, and also similar to the Bali style wrongkos that come from the carvers who supply the Jogja market. The material from which it is carved can be understood as tri kancu, really nice tri kancu. This wood is scarce everywhere but it is more likely to be used in Bali or Lombok than in Jawa.

So from my perspective, I see this atasan as a bit of a contradiction:- I am uncertain where this atasan might have been carved. On the other hand, I might just by seeing something that is a distortion artefact caused by the camera or the angle at which the photo was taken.

The above is the reason I used the word "style".

In respect of the pendok, there is probably not much more to say. It is in my opinion not Balinese work. The lis ("collar") is not used on Balinese pendoks, but it is common in Madura, similarly, many Madura pendok use a kepet, which although totally different in form to the buntut on this pendok, do serve the same purpose.I do not want to guess where this pendok was made, but it does not look like either Balinese work or Central Jawa work. If a gun was held to my head I think I'd opt for East Jawa. I am assuming that the material is silver, not mamas.

The keris itself is certainly Balinese style, it might be Lombok origin, but I find it difficult to accept Balinese settlement on Lombok as not being a part of Bali itself. You & I, and I think probably all Western World people, think of the sea separating land as division, the peoples of the Archepelago do not. They think of the sea, & bodies of water in general, as highways. To the Balinese of the Balinese colonial period, the settlements on Lombok were right next door and there was continuous contact between Klungkung and Lombok. Just looking at a keris blade bare of dress, I find it extraordinarily difficult to support a valid opinion on whether that blade originated in either Bali or Lombok.

The uwer is worth close attention.

The colour of those cabochon(?) "stones" on my screens is pink, a light, pretty pink. These stones might be natural stones, or they might be pastes. They might be light pink in colour, or they might be red, and the colour in the hand differs from the colour I can see on my screens.

There are a number of gem stones that are pink, but not all were historically used in Balinese & Javanese ornamentation. The most common pink stones found in older Balinese work are tourmaline, topaz, spinel & ruby, when ruby is found it is usually a star ruby. In Javanese work it is common to refer to all pink and red stones as "mirah" which is a pretty rubbery term and can mean either "ruby" or "cheap" or "red". In Balinese the word "mirah" is 99% of the time understood to mean "ruby".

Now, if indeed these "stones" are red, then that makes this a legitimate colour for use in Balinese society. Red is the colour of Brahma, and as such is appropriate for such use. The other colours that are deemed to be appropriate are black & white.

If indeed these stones are pink, that colour is associated with Mahesora, God of the South East, & Laksmi, the Goddess of wealth. Neither of these two deities seem to have a place in the Balinese Mandala as applied to the Keris Culture of Bali.

I really do appreciate you presenting this keris for our consideration Jean, it has a lot to teach us.
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Old 17th May 2022, 11:12 AM   #19
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Hello Alan,
Regarding the top part of the scabbard, Neka calls it sampir/ warangka (page 52) and Djelenga calls it angkup (page 288).
I have several uwers from Bali/ Lombok with pink stones (see pics) but I am not sure about the materials.
The "atasan" of my ex-kris was not made by the Dutch seller, it has some age and I shipped the whole kris to Solo for adjusting and treating the blade, polishing the atasan, and fitting the pendok.
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Old 17th May 2022, 02:29 PM   #20
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Thank you for your further explanations Jean.

In respect of the name that might be accurately applied to the top cross part of a wrongko, yes, I was aware of Sutejo Neka's use of "sampir" when I wrote post #18, I have my reasons for disregarding his terminology, and I have given my own reasons for preferring to use a BI term that I have found is not only universally used, but also universally understood.

Djelenga wrote from a Lombok foundation, and I have no personal experience at all in Lombok language or keris terminology. Yes, his book is written in BI, but in this language the word "angkup" is nonsensical as an appropriate word for the object under discussion, which to me seems to indicate that it is a Lombok term, and when we consider Lombok in general, we are looking at a mix of ethnicities and of dialects. Lalu Djelenga was himself Sasak, if I am not mistaken.

Jean, I have not the slightest doubt that you might have a multitude of pink stones ornamenting uwers and other items that have originated in Lombok, but that does not change the fact that pink stones in the uwer of a keris intended for wear in Bali are simply inappropriate.

This is NOT my opinion, it is social fact, which can very easily be checked by having a look at the Balinese Mandala.

I guess we would also need to accept uwers set with pink stones might also originate in Bali these days, but that does not alter the facts as set forth in the Mandala, and the practices followed by culturally conscious wear of the keris in Bali.

I must admit that it does surprise me that you would send these composite parts of the keris to Solo to be put together. Is this usual for collectors in Europe? I have always thought of this sort of simple thing as something that collectors did themselves, more or less as one of the aspects of keris interest. It has certainly given me a great deal of pleasure over the years to carry out restoration work on keris, I find it to be a sort of "active meditation".

EDIT

Immediately after posting the above, I opened an email from a Malaysian friend who lives in KL. He tells me that in Malay the word "sampir" is specific to the top part of a keris scabbard, it seems not to have the various other understandings that it has acquired in other languages that it has entered. I seem to recall that the keris writers who wrote in English back in the days when Peninsula Malaya was under the control of the English, and directly after, commonly used the word "sampir" when referring to the top part of a keris scabbard.

One other word that I have heard some people use in Central Jawa for the top part of the keris scabbard (apart from "gambar") is "awak-awakan", but this is not a word that is specific to that part, as is "sampir" in Malaysia, "awak-awakan" is used to refer to the main part of any object that has been made. So if somebody calls the atasan an "awak-awakan" they are not really naming it, they are describing it, and calling it the "main part" of the scabbard, just as "atasan" describes it & calls it the "top part" of the scabbard.

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Old 18th May 2022, 05:12 AM   #21
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This keris must be really beautiful if you all are
Asking me to deface it by removing its amazing handle and sheath lol
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Old 18th May 2022, 05:32 AM   #22
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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
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Old 18th May 2022, 09:23 AM   #23
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Yes GP, its a nice keris, these older, classic Bali keris have a presence that i feel is very powerful, however, unfortunately your particular keris has been thoughtlessly dressed. That is no big deal, but in my opinion it is something I personally would correct as soon as possible.
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Old 18th May 2022, 05:03 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ganapati View Post
This keris must be really beautiful if you all are
Asking me to deface it by removing its amazing handle and sheath lol
Well, it is indeed a nice example of the classic late 19th century Bali keris form.
I can only assume you are kidding about the "amazing handle and sheath" part.
If this were mine i believe the easiest thing to do right off is to replace the hilt. You can certainly find a fairly reasonable bondalan style hilt which would be perfectly acceptable. A nicely carved togogan (figural) hilt can cost quite a bit more, though they are not hard to come by if you want to invest the money.
As a collector living in the Western world replacing sheaths is a much more difficult task. I think we all agree that the atasan of your sheath has some age and is sincerely Balinese. So really the trouble with your dress lies mainly in the gandar treatment. It does seem to me that i can see some wood pattern beneath the string wrap. The string seems a bit loose. Can you gently push it aside to create a window and show us a photo of what lies beneath the string. If there is good wood there, as i stated before, i would simply remove the string. This does still leave the culturally incorrect silver fittings (are these real silver of some other alloy?). You could pull off that bottom piece that ends in a buntet like form and see if the wooden gandar still terminates properly. That shouldn't really cause damage if done properly and could easily be put back in place. If you have a good and complete gandar under these fittings a little refinishing could make this a proper sheath again. If not and you are handy with wood craft, the gandar would be the easiest part of a sheath to craft on your own and make the sheath look legit.
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