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Old 7th April 2022, 10:55 PM   #1
Athanase
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Default Keris (or not ?) with chinese handle

Hello,

This is the last keris I bought. It intrigues me a lot because the blade is not really a Keris blade and the handle (in ivory) is of Chinese tradition.

The scabbard is from Yogyakarta and was specially designed for this blade (the small originality is most certainly a break that has not been filled, but which has been repolished properly to appear original).

The mendak and selut (sadly very damage) are in silver.

Blade lenght : 33cm
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Old 8th April 2022, 01:19 AM   #2
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There are a lot of Chinese people in Jawa, apparently one of them decided to make a statement.

Everything about this keris is outside socially correct parameters for Javanese social & cultural purposes.

My guess is that it dates from second half of the 20th century, that it uses an older Chinese carving that has been adapted for the hilt, and it was only ever intended for wear in a Chinese social setting.

Social attitudes in Jawa during other periods of time, and in other than a Chinese environment would militate against other possibilities.

One other thing:- the selut is very recent, I'd say 1960's at the very earliest, this pattern selut is usually plated brass.

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Old 8th April 2022, 03:06 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Athanase View Post
Hello,

This is the last keris I bought. It intrigues me a lot because the blade is not really a Keris blade and the handle (in ivory) is of Chinese tradition.

The scabbard is from Yogyakarta and was specially designed for this blade (the small originality is most certainly a break that has not been filled, but which has been repolished properly to appear original).

The mendak and selut (sadly very damage) are in silver.

Blade lenght : 33cm

Looks like a Chinese deity.
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Old 8th April 2022, 04:35 AM   #4
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I'd say almost certainly a Chinese deity Anthony, but which one? Chinese deities can be very difficult to identify from their attributes, firstly because there are so many Chinese deities, and secondly because each deity can be represented in various ways.

In Jawa, particularly along the North coast, the Ming admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He, or in Jawa, Sam Po Kong) is particularly revered, apart from being in command of a 15th century Ming Treasure Fleet, sent to make tributary states of kingdoms bordering the southern seas he also helped to bring Islam to Jawa. There is a temple in Semarang named after him, I don't know if he had it built, or it was built in his honour.

The Ming Treasure Fleets?

Well, that was an early Chinese attempt at exactly what China is doing now with Belt & Road:- turn the world into Chinese tributary states. This attempt failed because China got a new emperor who had Buddhist advisors and they thought that there were already more than enough problems running the country without generating more problems by putting tributary states on the books. So the "tribute or else" policy stopped.

Anyway, Sam Po Kong is sometimes shown with a fly whisk in one hand and scroll in the other, maybe if we swap the scroll for fortune sticks (kau cim) we might have good old Cheng Ho here.

Or maybe somebody else.
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Old 8th April 2022, 08:28 AM   #5
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One other thing:- the selut is very recent, I'd say 1960's at the very earliest, this pattern selut is usually plated brass.
Alan, why do you think the selut is very recent?
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Old 8th April 2022, 08:39 AM   #6
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The ganja of the blade seems to be missing? This type of selut made from gilt brass is common and recent indeed (tourist quality) but this one may have some age?
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Old 8th April 2022, 09:09 AM   #7
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I wonder if this was always a kris blade or was it not a pendang blade adapted to be used onto a kris?

as for the Deity , I am not an expert of Chinese deity but I looked up a few images (I like the challenge)

Could she be Mazu? Goddes of the Sea? Especially revered by Chinese living in South-East Asia

Sometimes depicted with an object on her right or left shoulder and sometimes with a fly whisk, she is a Sea Goddess especially revered by Min people

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mazu

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Old 8th April 2022, 10:04 AM   #8
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Gustav:- because I have seen literally thousands of this pattern selut, none have been old. They are very common in Jogja, I do not agree with Jean that they are tourist, in fact, in recent years the idea of "tourist" is pretty much something that is long past. People in Central Jawa use this type of selut on decent keris, it is common, and it is not expensive.

Jean:- I believe it is certain that the blade has been re-shaped from something, I think probably a keris, but really, it could be anything big enough to accommodate it.
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Old 8th April 2022, 10:23 AM   #9
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Alan, this type of Selut was common in Jogja already around 1900 and most probably at least 20 years earlier. It is depicted in Groneman's plates on some of Karyodikromo's Keris, he calls the motif on this Traptrapan Selut Untuq-Untuq.

The Selut of Athanase seems to be lower in quality, because the upper rim is straight, but low quality in silver is perhaps a bit unusual.

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Old 8th April 2022, 12:52 PM   #10
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As I said Gustav, I have never seen an old one.

You have apparently seen some photos of older ones.

Can you tell me where the photos depicting these older examples might be found?

Thank you.

The fact that the upper rim of this selut is straight has nothing at all to do with quality. This hilt must use a selut with a straight upper rim, a scalloped rim used with this hilt would destroy the harmony of the figural carving & in Javanese eyes would be seen as totally out of place.

The scalloped rim that we so often see on planar hilts is a convention used in order to accommodate & emphasise the planes of the hilt.

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Old 8th April 2022, 01:17 PM   #11
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Alan, exactly, that would include the possibility that the Selut was made to accomodate the figurine turned into hilt.
Regarding more recent Selut, I have seen by far more ones with stright upper rim mated to planar hilts, and this is, what I would call lower quality.

If you have van Duuren's edition of Gronemans articles, photographs of Keris with such Selut can be found on pages 267, 264, possibly of higher quality 251.

I own two Keris with such Selut, both came to Europe before WWI.

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Old 8th April 2022, 01:45 PM   #12
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One of them:
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Old 8th April 2022, 02:19 PM   #13
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Could it be a sepang blade missing the ganja?
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Old 8th April 2022, 02:42 PM   #14
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And two from Groneman, one more refined:
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Old 8th April 2022, 04:11 PM   #15
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The selut is in silver, not brass plated.

Yes I think that a Sepang Keris blade without ganja is the most likely.
The warangka was made after the loss of the ganja.
The thin coper pendok and the good quality of wood make me think that the set was assembled during the first half of the 20th century, but not later (But it's a feeling, not a certainty).

In any case, as Allan said, even if this "Keris" does not respect the Javanese rules, it is not an object for tourists.
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Old 8th April 2022, 11:16 PM   #16
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Thanks for those pics Gustav. Yes, a couple of those selut certainly seem to be the same motif, but I'm not so sure about the one where the individual dots have been separated into "islands".

Still, it is interesting to see these old examples.

These days this pattern selut is one of the lower priced styles, but way back when these ones that you have shown us were made I'd guess they were probably no better & no worse than most other selut in the market place.

For the last 50 or 60 years, in Solo, it has not been the usual practice to get a selut made for a hilt, but rather to get the hilt made to fit the selut, or to do a retro fitting of selut to an existing hilt. So a client will approach the tukang jejeran with his order and provide a selut, or perhaps only a mendak, and the tukang jejeran will make the hilt to fit that selut. In any case, most of the component parts for keris dress are made to standards that permit a high degree of flexibility in fitting.

The question of "quality" in a selut or mendak is one where we would need to first establish exactly what we meant by "quality". Some lower priced selut can be quite well made & durable, some higher priced selut can be poorly made and flimsy, even though they might look good in a photo. Then there is the difference between a selut with a cast body and a selut with a fabricated body, or the difference between stones that are held in place with adhesive and stones that are in a setting.

A similar thing applies with mendak:- is it fabricated, or cast, or stamped out, or produced by embossing or repousse, or has a combination of techniques been used?

We are only in a position to appraise quality of any type of work if we understand the processes that are used in production.

For example, have a look at the mendak on the keris under discussion. Based upon what we can see in the photograph, what process might have been used to produce this mendak? Is this a high quality mendak or a mendak that would slot nicely into the lower priced end of the scale?

Incidentally, if that selut does indeed test as silver, rather than as silver plated brass, my estimate of age was wrong. In recent times this pattern of selut seems to have invariably been made in brass & then plated, so if the one under discussion is indeed silver, that would place it earlier than current era.

The pendok on this keris does not appear to be copper, it looks like silver or mamas, the bruise pattern inclines me to nominate silver.

The only way we can be certain about the material used in these keris fittings --- & other things produced in Jawa --- is to go to the inside of the object, heavily scrape the surface and then use a test fluid.

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Old 10th April 2022, 11:34 PM   #17
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Gustav, I've had the opportunity to have a look at my copy of David van Duuren's publication of Groneman's work.

Groneman uses the term "trap-trapan" to refer to the selut shape & method of production, his description in English does not make sense to me, possibly it is better in the original language.

However, his name for the motif as "untuq-untuq" would now be spelt as "unthuk-unthuk" which translates as "little mounds", Groneman tells us that the meaning is "foam", and yes, "unthuk"(singular) can be understood as "foam", but when we double a word it indicates plural, so "foams"? maybe. As far as I can determine, this is not the name of any Javanese art motif, but "little mounds" is a perfect description of the ornamentation shown on this selut style. Actually, this motif shown on these seluts has been given to me by my own informants as "m'rutu sewu", "sewu" means "a thousand", "m'rutu" means "a bug, or a gnat", however, both people who gave the name as m'rutu sewu, gave the translation into Bahasa Indonesia as "seribu bunga" = "a thousand flowers" , I guess "flowers" are much more charming than "bugs".

In general the names of motifs used in Javanese art work are pretty standardised and can normally be found in batik motif use.

Coming back to the word "trap-trapan", this refers to the way that something is arranged. I have not encountered this word used to refer to a selut shape. The other shape he mentions is "tatahan", which (as he writes) means chisel work, and this refers to ornamentation, not form.

Equally the names he gives for motifs are confused, and look more like descriptions.

For many years I was very eager to read Groneman's work, and I mentioned this to David van Duuren a few times long before his Groneman book was published. At that time he told me that there was really no new knowledge in Groneman's work & that I was not missing anything by not being able to read it.

However, I obtained a copy of David's publication as soon as it became available, and the first thing I did was to dive into the translated Groneman text. I found so many errors and misunderstandings and omissions that I came to the opinion that Groneman had not seen, had not understood much of what he undertook to describe.

Isaac Groneman appears to have spent more than 50 years on the Island of Jawa, I don't know how long he actually spent in Central Jawa, because he seems to have been in a number of places, but in light of that + 50 years I would expect him to have been competent in the use of the Javanese language, not merely Malay, so I strongly suspect that the informants he would have been using were either not particularly strong in knowledge of the keris, or were behaving in the usual manner that Javanese people during the colonial era behaved with Europeans, and to a degree, still do today.

I am of the opinion that Groneman's work is of value to us, and David's presentation of this translated work, along with all the other contents of this publication is a great gift to us, but I'm afraid that I cannot have much confidence in the accuracy of Isaac Groneman's writings. But this is probably through no real fault of his own. Things in Jawa were a bit different for Europeans a hundred & more years ago.
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Old 11th April 2022, 12:40 PM   #18
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Alan, thank you for your remarks.

Looking at how Keris terminology has changed over last 40 years I can imagine, terminology used by people around 120 years ago could leave us really wondering about it, even if we suppose the society and Keris lore could have been a bit more conservative and certainly not developing in a way how it is developing today.

I must say, unfortunately I don't have the German language original of Groneman's work.

But I looked through Jasper&Mas Pirngadie. They also mention two kinds of Selut: "seloet trap-trappan" (OE in this and all following words is Dutch spelling for modern U)and tatahan. Both names indicate the method of production.

With Selut Trap-trapan they mention following motifs:
1) "Kembang Oentoek-Oentoek (=foam)" - which changes the perspective and we have now a connection with flowers here indeed.
2) "Kembang Anggoer"
3) "Tamparran"

With Selut Tatahan they mention following motifs:
1) "Seloet Djlengoet"
2) "Wilojo" (I write an A with overring as O)
3) "Koemo Irawan" (ditto)
4) "Loeng Gadoeng"
5) "Saton"
6) "Tlatjappan" (Tlatjap=Toempal)
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Old 11th April 2022, 02:44 PM   #19
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You are absolutely correct Gustav:- language changes & understandings change over time.

Another thing that particularly applies to Javanese language usage is that the actual words used do not always indicate what a literal translation of those words might be. In other words, we cannot assume that just because words used might mean one thing in a literal translation, the speaker's meaning can be understood literally.

However, just using what Groneman wrote, the use of "trap-trapan" refers to the way the selut was made, "tatahan" refers to the method of decoration. Even now we will refer to a selut or a pendok or something else as a selut/pendok/or whatever as tatahan, but the actual shape of the selut would need to be specified. The normal assumption would be that we wanted a selut jeruk pecel if we only said "tatahan", but if we did not want to end up with something bigger than we actually wanted, we should specify that.

In Solo we have two forms of selut classified by shape, the first is jeruk pecel, the second is jeruk keprok. Now, those two basic shapes are further classified into various styles, for example, we have selut trap-trapan(ie, a fabricated selut), selut tatahan (ie, a selut that has been ornamented by carving with chisel work) then we have others like selut krawangan, selut unthuk-unthukan ( usually shortened to unthuk-unthuk), selut m'rutu sewu, selut wungkul (wungkul refers only to round things and it means something that has not yet been cut, so in BI, that means it is "polos", ie unornamented). Then we might want to specify motifs, such as lung-lungan, or maybe anggur, or kembang anggrek.

J&P is a respected source, iconic, but just the names of things are not really a whole lot of use unless we understand what the meaning is that the name is supposed to convey, for example we can have a fabricated selut that has been worked by using the krawangan method of working and that is then ornamented with precious or semi-precious stones. Such a selut would be a selut trap-trapan, krawangan tretes.

However, in speech we do not usually give a full description of a selut when we refer to it, we just abbreviate to a single word, or a couple of words that will convey the meaning. So we might just say that we are looking for a selut tatahan, this immediately conveys that we do not want a fabricated (trap-trapan) selut, nor do we want a krawangan or tretes selut.

But if we say that we want a krawangan selut, that might generate the question as to whether we want a selut tretes or just a plain selut that draws its ornamentation from the krawangan work alone.

It all comes down to the necessity of knowing exactly what it is that we are talking about, otherwise it is just words with no clear meaning.
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Old 12th April 2022, 09:56 AM   #20
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here something about selut from a B.H. book
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Old 12th April 2022, 01:46 PM   #21
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That's not a bad explanation Marco, as far as it goes.

The exploded drawing of the trap-trapan selut I believe makes it quite clear that with trap-trapan we are talking about what we would perhaps call a "fabricated" selut in English, the parts are made, and then arranged to form the finished product. The word "trap-trapan" carries the meaning of arranging something into its place.

However, after the basic selut has been assembled (ie, "fabricated") the motif is cut into it, and this work makes the basic selut an object that carries "krawangan" work. The ornamentation of the trap-trapan selut can stop right there, but if gems are added, that selut which has been produced by arranging the separate parts together, then cutting a motif into it, becomes a selut "tretes" when the gems are added. A selut such as this has a lot of work in it & involves a number of aspects of the jeweller's craft, carving, sculpting, engraving, chiselling, soldering.

In the old days, the jewellers & goldsmiths in Jalan Coyudan used to do this sort of work , but after about the 1950's keris related work became more focussed I think and craftsmen specialising in keris dress were located in various areas. At the moment some very good seluts of this style are produced in Purwokerto, the trap-trapan selut is usually the size & style that we identify as Jeruk Keprok.

The tatahan selut usually starts with a body that has been cast, the casting is refined by polishing & shaping before the finishing begins. The finishing is usually just the engraving of a motif into the metal using hand chisels & gravers. This then is the selut tatahan.

What Harsrinuksmo says is:- "Bagian-bagian tertentu dari gambaran pola hias itu lalu ditatah (dipahat) sehingga berlobang. Maka jadilah bundaran itu sebuah calonan selut krawangan.(gambar 3)".

So we have a selut tatahan up to the point where the design is cut through the metal, once the design is cut through the metal that tatahan work becomes krawangan work, and we have a selut krawangan. Harsrinuksmo says "calonan selut krawangan'', "calonan" means a "candidate", so the selut that began as a "candidate" to become a selut tatahan, with only an engraved design, or maybe no design at all, can become a selut krawangan when the design is carved through the metal. Then if gems are added --- which would be very unusual with this type of selut, we have a selut tretes.

But there is one thing that does not change:- that selut which started as a selut tatahan will be the size and shape of a selut Jeruk Pecel. Only the selut trap-trapan that is fabricated will be a selut Jeruk Keprok.

There is another kind of selut that I believe is only a recent product, it has the size & shape of a Selut Jeruk Pecel, but instead of the body being cast, that body is made of very thin brass sheet that has a false krawangan work motif stamped into it. These seluts are very low priced.
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Old 15th April 2022, 11:51 AM   #22
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Thank you very much Alan for these very comprehensive informations
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Old 17th April 2022, 05:06 AM   #23
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I'm pleased to be of service Marco.

There is actually quite a lot that could be written on seluts and mendak, and other dress items too. These days new technology and new application of existing old-time processes has altered a lot of things.

For instance, those Purwokerto seluts that I mentioned are actually cast, but have the appearance of being fabricated and with applied krawangan work. The take-away is that a well made Purwokerto selut can look as good as a Solo fabricated selut at a fraction of the Solo price.

Other things are changing too. Way, way back, maybe about 1984 Harjonegoro told me that at that time there was only one man in Central Jawa who was able to make the traditional style granulated mendak. This man had a son who was mentally handicapped, but he was able to make this mendak style. The father passed away long ago, this mendak style was still in the markets for a while, but it has now --- well, as of 2019 --- virtually disappeared.

But new productions and variants on old styles seem to continually appear. Regrettably, finding any dress of decent quality these days is difficult. I used to know several m'ranggis who were capable of very good to superb work, as of 2019 they had all either moved to some other form of work or had died.

There are still tukang jejeran & tukang wrongko in Solo, but from what I've seen of their work I would not entrust a valuable item to them. I am not implying dishonesty, only a lack of skill.

I get told that all the really good craftsmen have moved to Jakarta and are working on contract to the Big Boys. Maybe. I don't know anything for sure, except that I can no longer get the standard of work that I am prepared to accept.
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