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Old 13th May 2018, 01:40 AM   #1
Paul de Souza
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Default Solo Keris - Comments and Info welcome.

Hi all.

I have a keris from Solo which to me has an unusual dapur and Grenang. It was given as a token of appreciation, in the 70s to 80s, to a benefactor of a village in Solo for building a mosque or prayer room for that village. Notice the many cecekan on the hilt. The blade has no pamor that I can see. Any comments welcome.
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Old 13th May 2018, 02:05 AM   #2
A. G. Maisey
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The blade is not a Surakarta blade. I hesitate to give it a classification because my feeling is that it is a rather poor quality blade that has been altered, what we call a "robahan". I could only confirm this feeling if I had the blade in my hands.

The wrongko is a nice quality ladrang, not special, but nicely carved and with correct grain orientation.

The pendok appears to be silver and was probably made by Bp. Prawirodihardjo (Alm.) of Jogjakarta. If this is silver we are looking at a very expensive pendok. At the present time, and for some time past, a pendok of this style and quality has been impossible to obtain.

The hilt is a standard, but scarce Solonese form.

The mendak appears to be silver set with yakut (rose cut rock crystal).

Taken in its totality, this is a very, very nice formal dress keris.
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Old 13th May 2018, 02:35 AM   #3
Paul de Souza
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Thank you Alan. The pondok is silver and needs a good polish. I like the way the lok flow at the upper part of the blade. Has a grace to it.
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Old 13th May 2018, 03:19 AM   #4
A. G. Maisey
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Paul, forgive me, but the word is 'pendok'.

In Javanese a pondok (or pondhok) is a small, roughly built hut.

I would not over polish that silver, leave the black oxidation in the hollows.
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Old 13th May 2018, 03:34 AM   #5
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Yup. Same in Malay. Pondok is a small hut. Thumps moving independent of mind. Yes...keep as much of the patina as possible. Thanks.
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Old 13th May 2018, 10:41 AM   #6
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After a little rub with a polish cloth.
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Old 13th May 2018, 11:59 AM   #7
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Motif is probably a Sirsat variation.
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Old 13th May 2018, 03:05 PM   #8
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Very beautiful pendok!
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Old 14th May 2018, 12:13 AM   #9
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This is not a poor quality keris blade. The steel is compact, of good quality.

The luks are executed in a sublime manner, beautifully curving, and seems to almost go out of control, but does not. Amplitude of the luk seems to visually increase as we move towards the tip, even as the luk gets smaller.

The keris has a substantial cross section, yet does not feel heavy. The cross section profile is beautifully plump and well shaped.

Yes, it may not be a surakarta blade, but it is far from being of poor quality.
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Old 14th May 2018, 12:50 AM   #10
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In my opinion, the dynamicism in the blade is far superior to the staid excellence of the pendok.
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Old 14th May 2018, 01:53 AM   #11
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If you say so Blue, if you say so.

We all only comment upon the basis of experience, knowledge and what we can see.


My experience, my knowledge and what I can see in the photo has generated my comment. This blade has very definitely been fiddled with, how much I do not know, what it started as I do not know, and I cannot know on the basis of a photograph. With the blade in my hand I could probably give a firm opinion, from the photo I can only go on what the photo tells me.


I do recognise that differing standards can apply in respect of just how the excellence or otherwise of a keris blade is appraised, For example, we cannot appraise a Javanese blade according to the same standards that are used for a Balinese blade, or a Bugis blade, or a Peninsular blade.

Similarly, once we establish that we are in fact looking at a Javanese blade we cannot appraise a blade from one classification by using standards that apply to a different classification.

Because of this the first thing that we seek to do when called upon to give an opinion on the excellence or otherwise of a keris is to classify the blade in accordance with its perceived tangguh. In the case of keris blades of very high quality, this is not such a difficult thing to do, but as the overall quality of a blade falls, it becomes more and more difficult to establish a tangguh classification.

So failure to establish a defensible opinion in respect of tangguh then becomes a problem in attempting to appraise quality of a blade, because we cannot use the identifiable indicators to tell us how closely or otherwise the blade conforms to established parameters.

A result such as this immediately places a blade into limbo where an opinion of blade quality needs to be based upon factors such as the skill of the maker and the nature of the materials, as well as constant factors that apply across the broad spectrum of all keris.

As an example, one such broad spectrum factor would be exposure of the blade core:- ideally the blade core should extend beyond the pamor for an even distance around the circumference of the blade.

Another universal parameter is that where an ada-ada exists, it should be centrally placed in the blade body. The style of the ada-ada depends upon the classification of the blade, so in the absence of an applicable classification we cannot know the form that the ada-ada should have.

The form of luk is highly dependent upon blade classification, so without a classification all we can say is whether the luk are attractive or not, and that then becomes a judgement that is subject to wide opinion.

With this blade that Paul has shown us, what the photo tells me is that first I cannot identify sufficient indicators to classify the blade. In broad terms it does display some Mataram characteristics, but Mataram what? I have no idea simply by looking at a photo. The form of the ada-ada seems to indicate that it might be Mataram Kajoran, the ada-ada is quite heavy, and in the hand it might resemble the back of a kerbau. But if it is Kajoran, the luk are decidely peculiar for that classification.

The next thing that immediately grabs my attention are the notches in the wadidang. Why are they there? They most certainly do not belong in any Javanese blade. Who put them there and why?

Then we come to the blade proportion which seems to indicate that the blade edges have been reduced. This edge reduction seems to be even more likely when we note that as soon as the blade begins to have luk, the ada-ada goes way, way off centre. Why is it off centre? I sincerely doubt that a maker who could handle the sculpting in the sorsoran competently, as this maker has done, could not maintain a centreline for the ada-ada.

So, for me, there are just too many questions. If it is indeed a Javanese blade, and I tend to believe that it is, it varies far too widely from accepted standards to be accepted as something of quality.

It may be accepted as a quality blade in some other places, but not by the standards that apply in Jawa, and it is, after all, presented in classic Javanese dress of quite nice quality.

I do not deny for one moment that it is an attractive blade, and close examination of it could well reveal that it has been competently made, if it has been altered, as I suspect, the alterations appear to have been competently handled.

However, simply because it might be attractive and competently made that does not make it an item of quality. There is a lot more to it than that. It has been presented as a Javanese keris, so it should be appraised in accordance with Javanese standards.

It is a very nice dress keris.

Last edited by A. G. Maisey : 14th May 2018 at 02:59 AM. Reason: comment extended
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Old 14th May 2018, 08:02 AM   #12
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Different but interesting wiew points from Alan and Bue Erf, and both are fully defendable IMO, thanks!
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Old 14th May 2018, 09:06 AM   #13
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Yes Jean, I agree, Blue's opinion and my opinion are coming from different directions:-

Blue's opinion is absolutely defensible from the perspective of the average general collector who is outside Javanese society, on the other hand I have chosen to adopt an attitude that reflects what I have been taught of the Javanese perspective.

I guess it depends upon whether we view this keris as a Javanese cultural artifact, or whether we do not differentiate it from any keris from any other place. Whether we judge it according to parameters specific to the Javanese keris, or whether we judge it according to the parameters of general collectors who have only a very slight understanding of the way in which to appraise a Javanese keris.

In my opinion it should be judged as a Javanese keris, not just as any old keris that happened to wander along. Somebody took the trouble to dress it very tastefully and very correctly. It deserves nothing less than culturally correct appraisal. It is not just another collectable item, it is a very nice example of a Javanese dress keris. In my opinion to give it only a cursory comment based upon overall appearance is to disrespect this keris, it is a serious cultural artifact and should be given serious attention.
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Old 14th May 2018, 12:44 PM   #14
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Thank you Alan, and "defensible" is more appropriate than "defendable", sorry for that.
To me this blade does not look to be in accordance with classical Central Java standards (odd greneng on the wadidang, very thick ada-ada, uneven luks, etc) so is it appropriate to try to assign a tangguh to it?
According to the EK, a blade with luks closer and closer towards the tip as this one is an indicator of tangguh Kahuripan (a very old so questionable one?).
I only have one blade with such feature (also with ada-ada), see pic.
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Old 14th May 2018, 10:46 PM   #15
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Yes Jean, the difficulty in classification of this blade is the first stumbling block that we meet if we wish to appraise it. The elements that you mention are not any sort of impediment by themselves, but when we consider other elements, too many questions seem to arise.

It comes back, I think, to the idea of "quality":- that which one person, or group of people consider to indicate "quality" is not necessarily what a different group of people consider to indicate "quality".

If we consider this keris in its totality, not just the wilah, we have an example , a very good example, of a particular type of classical Javanese keris, thus in my opinion, it is reasonable to apply classical Javanese standards to any appraisal of the keris.

In its totality, it is not just any keris that was put together for some farmer or fisherman or small trader who has had a windfall. It is the type of keris that could be worn by an aristocrat at a formal gathering. It deserves to be considered in a formal way, not just as some sort of interesting collectable.

In respect of tangguh Kahuripan.

As you mention Jean, Kahuripan refers to a very ancient period in Javanese history. Kahuripan was Erlangga's kingdom, it lasted for about 20 years in East Jawa near the Brantas river, it had disappeared before 1025AD.

Can anything at all be reasonably linked to this era? Let alone a particular form of modern keris ("Modern Keris" = post Hindu-Buddhist Jawa).

The classification "Kahuripan" for a keris is simply a name, it does not and cannot refer to a keris that originated over 1000 years ago. At that time the keris as we now know it did not exist. Even 300 years later the Modern Keris probably had not yet appeared. It is not until we get into the 14th-15th century that keris and keris-like weapons with blades of similar form to those of Modern Keris begin to appear in the monumental evidence.

It is possible that in the sense of a tangguh classification, "Kahuripan" might refer to the historic area where Kahuripan was supposed to exist, thus, when the tangguh system began to develop in Central Jawa, it was believed that keris that possessed certain features originated from this area. Over time, this geographic reference became a time reference.

However, in respect of indicators for the tangguh "Kahuripan". What Harsrinuksmo says is this:-
"--- luknya tidak merata, makin ujung, makin rapat."
This can be understood as:-
"--- the luk are not even, the closer they get to the point, the closer they become."
He does not mention anything about where the luk begin.
He says other things as well, none of which appear to agree with the indicators used in Solo during the 1980's to classify a blade as Kahuripan. When we use EK as a reference we must never forget that Bambang Harsrinuksmo was a journalist with an interest in keris. He collected information from various informants, assembled it and published it. I did not know a single highly placed ahli keris in Solo who had a high regard for the contents of EK.

Harsrinuksmo published a number of little booklets that led up to EK. The two men whom I regarded as the most knowledgeable people I knew in the subject of keris both questioned his sources for the content of these booklets. One of these men had some small regard for Harsrinuksmo's first hardcopy keris book, the "Ensiklopedi Budaya Nasional", but he laughed openly at EK. The first book was published in 1988, EK was published in 2004. Both were attempts to ride the keris popularity wave.

Harsrinuksmo's most important contribution to the World of the Keris is that he has given keris fanciers a lexicon that permits exchange of ideas across barriers of language.

But to get back to Kahuripan luk. In Paul's keris we have a blade where the luk do not begin until about halfway up the blade. In Solo a blade of this style would be referred to as "campur bawur". The feature that EK mentions would refer to a blade where the luk commenced at the normal place, immediately after the sorsoran, but as they approached the point they came closer together.

This raises one of the things that causes me to have doubts about the originality of this blade. The blade proportions are not what we would expect to see in a Javanese keris:- the upper part of the blade is too narrow for the lower part of the blade. This could be just a maker's style, especially somebody who was working in an area away from kraton influence.

However, the edges of this blade are perfect and show no fragmentation, even though the gonjo has begun to show grain, similarly, the blade surface does not show grain. This absence of grain and edge fragmentation indicates that the edges of the blade have been cleaned up --- a normal maintenance procedure --- and that the blade surface has been refinished, which is not a normal maintenance procedure.

For a very long time, probably going back into the 19th century, if not before, the very large North Coast blades of Jawa have been reworked into smaller blades that are a more appropriate size for dress wear. These very large North Coast blades usually had pamor sanak, or a simple low contrast wos wutah. One of the ways in which these blades were reworked was to put luk into a straight blade, these luk were forged in, and this forging inevitably left evidence on the edges and surface of the blade, this evidence needed to be removed.

Blue has apparently handled this blade as he tells us that the blade has a heavy cross section but that it does not feel heavy in the hand. If it does not feel heavy in the hand, and it has a substantial blade, that means that there is a concentration of weight in the sorsoran. This is precisely an indicator of a blade that began life as a much larger blade and was re-worked into a smaller blade.

For comparison, consider the classical Surakarta blade:- it has very substantial proportions and is thick and heavy. It feels heavy when you hold it. These heavy Surakarta blades are jokingly referred to as "linggis" = "crowbars". If you fail to stab your victim to death, you can beat him to death with it.

There is another thing that has to be considered when a large blade is reworked into a smaller blade with luk:- the closer the luk get to the sorsoran, the more difficult it becomes to forge in luk without causing damage to the blade that cannot be corrected. As a consequence big, old blades that have been reworked to have luk often have the luk starting further up the blade than is usual.

So I think we get back to the idea of "quality".

What is "quality"?

Well, my ideas on quality are very obviously somewhat different to the ideas of some other people. For my failure to agree in this respect I most sincerely apologise.
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Old 18th May 2018, 12:02 AM   #16
Paul de Souza
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Thanks for all your comments.
Learned a lot.
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