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Old 16th January 2016, 07:32 PM   #1
mariusgmioc
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Default Balinese Keris hilt ID

Can somebody please enlighten me who the guy of this Balinese Keris hilt is?
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Old 16th January 2016, 07:58 PM   #2
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I think many might describe him as Bayu the father of Bhima. Here is my own example in brass with a gold wash.
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Old 16th January 2016, 08:18 PM   #3
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Marius, one of the problems in identification of the characters depicted in Balinese hilts is that very often these characters are not sculpted in a way that will permit identification by the use of the traditional indicators.

With a hilt that has been recently made, such as the one on the keris you have shown, it is nearly always quite impossible to affix any sort of positive identification to the character shown. The reason for this is that the artists who make these hilts no longer necessarily follow traditional patterns; they set out to create an art work, rather than a culturally accurate representation of a deity or folk character.

Occasionally we may be able to find one or more attributes that will allow us to say that a particular hilt is intended to show such & such a character, but even then, it will be a rare occasion when we can claim a positive, inarguable identification.

A couple of years ago, Bapak Sutejo Neka, owner of the Neka Gallery in Ubud, a member of the Pande Clan, and one of Bali's acknowledged authorities on Balinese art, wrote a little book on Balinese keris (Understanding Balinese Keris). When he describes Balinese keris hilts, his identifications of the characters very often become something like:- "a royal figure", "a representation of a king". If this is the best that one of the leading authorities on Balinese keris art can do, I rather feel that people such as ourselves should not expect to always be able to fix a name on a character depicted in a Balinese keris hilt.
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Old 16th January 2016, 08:21 PM   #4
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Yes, it appears to be the same "Bayu" guy! Thank you!
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Old 16th January 2016, 08:35 PM   #5
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I understand, and that explains why there is so much confusion about this topic. Thank you very much!

In May I will go to Indonesia and I am planing to get a few kerises from there. Can you please give me some hints where I can find some? What about this "Neka" gallery in Ubud. Do they have kerises for sale as I will be in Ubud for at least a couple of days?
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Old 16th January 2016, 10:18 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
I think many might describe him as Bayu the father of Bhima. Here is my own example in brass with a gold wash.


Thank you very much for your help! It certainly looks very similar so I guess it might be Batara Bayu.
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Old 18th January 2016, 01:05 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Marius, one of the problems in identification of the characters depicted in Balinese hilts is that very often these characters are not sculpted in a way that will permit identification by the use of the traditional indicators.

While i do understand your reluctance to ID this figure i do have to say that this hilt does indeed have indicators that should allow us (or somebody) to identify it. While i certainly agree that the artists of many new Bali hilts tend to use a good deal of "poetic" license in their design, the hilt shown here by Marius does seem to follow fairly closely to the design of a commonly accepted Balinese hilt form which i believe has been around at least since pre-WWII times and perhaps earlier. The common indicators on these hilts are generally the body position, jeweled crown, right arm across the body holding a stylized fan (or mirror?), left hand in a mudra position usually with extended fingers (or nails?). Since this figure appears again and again with all of these same features i can only presume that there was originally some intention as to his identity beyond "royal figure". I have heard this figure referred to as Bayu for quite some time, but i am unaware of the exacting reasons for this identification. Bayu is a wind god AFAIK so perhaps people have regarded the fan as an indicator of that persona. Perhaps the mudra connects the figure as a godly one due to the ritual nature of the hand sign. I write this not to defend the attribution of Bayu per se since i cannot personally be sure that is correct from my own researched information, but only to point out that this particular figure has been used and portrayed in pretty much this same exact manner for enough time that it seems most likely to me that there must be some original intention as to the identity of this character, even if he has been mistakenly identified as Bayu all this time.
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Old 18th January 2016, 01:30 AM   #8
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David, I do not suggest for one moment that this hilt under discussion can be described as a royal figure, I used this term simply to demonstrate that one of Bali's foremost authorities on the art of his homeland is frequently unable to give a positive identification of the figures depicted in totogan hilts.

Speaking for myself, these days I am extremely hesitant to give a positive identification of a Balinese hilt unless the indicators are inarguable.

I cannot disagree that both of the hilts shown might be Bayu.

Equally, I am not able to agree that both hilts definitely are intended to be Bayu, in spite of the long standing identification of this hilt form by keris collectors, as Bayu.

Maybe Bayu, may not be Bayu. I simply do not know for certain, so I reserve my opinion.

Actually, the way I read your initial post, you are saying pretty much the same thing:-

"--- many might describe him as Bayu ---"

Here is another of the same form.
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Old 18th January 2016, 09:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
David, I do not suggest for one moment that this hilt under discussion can be described as a royal figure, I used this term simply to demonstrate that one of Bali's foremost authorities on the art of his homeland is frequently unable to give a positive identification of the figures depicted in totogan hilts.



Hello Alan,
In his previous book "Keris Bali Bersejarah" Pande Wayan Suteja Neka does identify most of the "royal" figures depicted on togogan hilts (Prabu Ratmaja, Dewa Indra, etc.), however he just describes few of them as Prabu or Prabu kreasi baru (new creation). It is surprising that none of these figures is identified as Bayu although many of the figures which he calls Prabu Ratmaja are very similar to the ones attributed to Bayu. What a confusion!
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Old 18th January 2016, 10:41 AM   #10
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Yes Jean, agreed:- confusion, but more than this, in fact a very deep lack of honesty and understanding at many levels.

The puputans changed many things.

You've read Wiener?

look at the confusion and contradictions that permeate her discussions with Balinese people.

The problem is perhaps that people who are outside a society imagine that the state within the society is as they imagine it to be from readings of times past. In fact, where Bali and Jawa are concerned, this is seldom the case.

In respect of the ID of hilts and other things in "Bali Bersejarah". Yes, this book was published under Pak Sutejo Neka's name, but exactly how much of it did he write? I've tried to work this out, and quite simply, I cannot.
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Old 18th January 2016, 08:21 PM   #11
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Post Batara Bayu

Thank you all for your assistance!

After a further and thorough search I found the book "The Gods of War: Sacred Imagery and the Decoration of Arms and Armor" by Donald J. LaRocca, published by Metropolitan Museum. In the book, a very similar figure is described as Batara Bayu (God of Winds). The author also briefly describes the atributes that allow this positive ID.

The book is available for reading online and free downloading at the link below:

http://www.metmuseum.org/research/m..._Arms_and_Armor
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Old 19th January 2016, 12:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Maybe Bayu, may not be Bayu. I simply do not know for certain, so I reserve my opinion.

Actually, the way I read your initial post, you are saying pretty much the same thing:-

"--- many might describe him as Bayu ---"

Here is another of the same form.

Indeed you are correct Alan, i was taking this approach simply because i simply do not possess any solid evidence myself that allows me to describe this character as Bayu with any sense of certainty. However, that said it is clear that this particular fellow has been identified by at least a segment of the keris collecting world as Bayu for some time. Why? It is also clear that the hilts that are IDed as Bayu all share the same indicators that i mentioned before in their form so it does seem most likely that all these hilts, Marius' example, my example and your exceptional example are indeed all intended to depict the same character. I kind of felt that your approach at this point is to throw up your hands and count this as an unsolvable mystery where as my thought is that perhaps through continued inquery we might eventually be able to come to terms with the question. I am curious, for instance, when this hilt style may have first been identified as Bayu and what reasoning that person may have had for making that assessment. Dies anybody have a clue? As i have already stated, there are indeed quite a number of indicators in the form of these hilts that repeat again and again in each example. The fan in the right hand, the mudra sign on the left hand, the jeweled crown, even the garments the figure wears are pretty much the same in each and every one of the example of this hilt that i have seen. So i don't think we can look at Marius' hilt and say that it does not follow a traditional pattern of some sort simply because it is a recently made hilt. It follows the same pattern as the others before it. I remain fairly convinced that whoever this figure is he is supposed to be a particular representation that is clearly the same in all these examples. It is, of course, possible that we might never get to the bottom of this, but i don't think we should completely drop the inquiry simple because Bapak Sutejo Neka chooses not to place a specific ID on this figure.
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Old 19th January 2016, 02:26 AM   #13
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I used Pak Neka as an easy example.

The hard example I considered to be too long, but maybe I should give it anyway.

I first went to Bali in 1966. Hell of a trip at a hell of time. Tried to buy keris and get info on keris. At that time I could not find anybody who was prepared to talk to an ignorant bule about things as sacred as keris.

Between 1966 and about 1982 I went to Bali and Jawa about 12 times (that's counting the inevitable double visits to Bali as single visits), by the late 1970's I had learnt to speak passable BI (Bahasa Indonesia) so I was in a position for at least some of this time to be able to communicate with people in their own language --- or at least their own public language. I had access to a Brahmin from about 1978, and this man did give me more than a little bit of information and insight into the Balinese keris and attitudes towards it. At that time there was much that he gave me that I did not understand, but over the following years that understanding did come, but pretty slowly.

From 1982 through to 2014 I visited Indonesia more than 35 times, always with the double visit to Bali, on the way in, and on the way out.

I had many more informants in Jawa than in Bali, but I did actively seek information and understanding every time I was in Bali. My Brahmin contact passed away in the mid-1980's, so I lost that source, but I did develop relationships with a few people who had either a specific keris interest, or a cultural interest or talent.

So, that's the background that has helped form my opinions in this hilt character matter. It goes without saying that I have also covered a lot of printed material, but we won't go into that.

Based only upon my own personal experience, what I have found is that amongst Balinese people who have some knowledge of the way in which various deities are represented, and/or some knowledge of the keris, it is very difficult to get unvarying opinions that are in agreement. Even from the same person there can be day to day variation --- well, maybe not day to day, but rather year to year.

Apart from the variation, there is the inescapable problem of Balinese representations of Hindu deities. As an example. look at Ganesha. The Ganesha figure that almost always appears in keris hilts would never in a million years be accepted as a valid representation of Ganesha by any Hindu from India.

Two arms? Incorrect attributes? Naw, that's not Ganesh --- it might be somebody else, but its sure not Ganesh.

But in Bali it is accepted as Ganesha.

Why?

Because that's who it is intended to be.

Correctness is not a part of the game.

Intention is.

So, if we look at a hilt such as this beautiful silver hilt that Marcus has shown us, we need to ask:- 'when this was made, what was the intention?'

There are a number of reasons that can be provided for the making of a keris hilt:-

1) as personal deity, the function of which is to protect

2) as the representation of an ancestor, the function of which is to protect

3) as an ancestor represented as a deity, the function of which is to protect

4) as a folk figure, the function of which is to either protect the wearer or provide a negative aura towards the opponent

5) as a prescribed form to permit the wearing of a keris in prescribed situations

6) as a work of art, either stand alone, or for fitting to a keris.

This is what I can present without thinking about it. These possibilities are in the front of my mind, so to speak; with thought and research we can probably come up with more reasons to make a keris hilt in a particular way.

To me, it seems probable that Marcus' hilt is able to be categorised as fitting into #6 category:- a work of art; of course, this does not necessarily rule out categories 1 to 3, but since this is a very recent hilt, inclusion in one of those categories does seem to be unlikely.

Whatever I may say in this matter is purely opinion, but personally, I feel that it is pretty well grounded opinion, however, being opinion it can always be wrong.

It is not so much that I have thrown my hands into the air and declared Balinese hilts to be an unsolvable mystery.

It is more that my experience tells me that it is best to be cautious in giving opinions on the characters in any hilt, and foolish to be positive.

The maker and the person for whom a hilt was made are truly the only people who can say with any certainty what a particular figure is supposed to be.

The rest of us are best to quality our opinions, as David has done in his initial post.
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Old 19th January 2016, 09:16 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey

To me, it seems probable that Marcus' hilt is able to be categorised as fitting into #6 category:- a work of art; of course, this does not necessarily rule out categories 1 to 3, but since this is a very recent hilt, inclusion in one of those categories does seem to be unlikely.


I tend to agree with Alan. Although Marius' hilt shows similar features to Alan's exceptional specimen, the craftsmanship is much poorer and there are some deviations such as the attribute in the right hand (which is supposed to be a vase containing the immortality fluid according to many sources) and the fancy decoration of the legs, etc. I attach the pics of another silver hilt supposed to depict Bayu also, it is at least 30 years old and it is interesting to notice the evolution of the design and workmanship as compared to Marius' recently made hilt.
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Old 19th January 2016, 10:36 AM   #15
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What are your impressions on this one in the center?
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Old 19th January 2016, 12:38 PM   #16
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From all the posts and the knowledge I gained over the last few days, after hours and hours of reading and internet searching, I can sumarize that in this case one cannot assume with certainty who the figure of the hilt is. Although there are some aspects that may point it to Bayu, there isn't enough factual evidence to support it (as I found quite interesting and educating arguments suggesting the figure might be depicting Bhima, who shares several attributes with Bayu, his father). In other words, one cannot accurately proclaim something to be black or white when in fact it is grey.

I will go to Indonesia in April-May and I will try to find out more about this subject.
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Old 19th January 2016, 08:50 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Although there are some aspects that may point it to Bayu, there isn't enough factual evidence to support it (as I found quite interesting and educating arguments suggesting the figure might be depicting Bhima, who shares several attributes with Bayu, his father).


Bima is normally depicted with a different style of hairdo (a curled crest at the back of the head), you can check it on Dr Google.

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Old 20th January 2016, 06:30 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jean
Bima is normally depicted with a different style of hairdo (a curled crest), you can check on Dr Google.


Thank you!
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Old 20th January 2016, 08:59 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apolaki
What are your impressions on this one in the center?


A common quality specimen made from copper and with a bit of age, similar figure as Marius' one but the attribute in the right hand is not clearly visible on the pic.
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Old 20th January 2016, 09:39 PM   #20
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Several more.

Gilt on brass, colour under glass, estimate late 19th century

Gilt on silver, natural stones, early 1980's

Gilt on brass, glass & natural stone, estimate early 20th century
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Old 21st January 2016, 10:15 AM   #21
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Gilded brass with gem stones, I think that it is from beginning of 20th century.
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Old 21st January 2016, 10:21 AM   #22
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Kayu arang (ebony) with silver applications and gem stones, bought in the late 90th in Klungkung.
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Old 21st January 2016, 10:24 AM   #23
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Wood with gold paint and gem stones, late 19th century (?)
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Old 22nd January 2016, 09:42 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Several more.

Gilt on brass, colour under glass, estimate late 19th century

Gilt on silver, natural stones, early 1980's

Gilt on brass, glass & natural stone, estimate early 20th century


The first figure seems to depict another god as he has fangs, his crown is in a different style, and he holds someting in his left hand rather that showing his long nails...
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Old 22nd January 2016, 10:51 AM   #25
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Yes Jean, there are some differences, and the remarkable (?) thing is this:-

the more carefully we look at these supposedly identical figures, the more we find minor variation.

Identical figures, or similar figures?

Who are they?

Does anybody really know?

With anything made in recent times, did even the makers have any real idea what they were making?

With keris hilts in Bali we have a number of influences, and since the puputans, those influences have been very strongly orientated towards European artistic influences and the need to earn a living.

Bali from 1920 to 2010 is a very great deal different to Bali from 1820 to 1910.
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Old 22nd January 2016, 12:03 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Does anybody really know?

With anything made in recent times, did even the makers have any real idea what they were making?


Maybe the few remaining hilt master carvers such as Ida Bagus Pastika or old Balinese collectors? Some members may have met them?
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Old 22nd January 2016, 07:53 PM   #27
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I have been busy for a couple of days and did not access the net. Regarding the figures, from I have read recently the figures that have fangs represent demons, as opposed to the others that represent gods or heroes. However, I find it interesting how demons appear to have attributes of gods, so I guess the maker either didn't know or didn't care what was he making.
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Old 22nd January 2016, 10:26 PM   #28
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Yes Jean, maybe an experienced specialist hilt carver will have some knowledge.
Or an interested Brahman priest.
Or an academic specialising in this subject.

However, even if we get a supposedly accurate response from somebody --- anybody --- we must ask:-

"how do you know? who told you this"

To come to some sort of an understanding of the depiction of characters in Balinese keris hilts there are several things that need to be taken into consideration.

To begin with, there are the variations that occur between Balinese interpretations of Hindu deities, and the way in which these deities are represented on the sub-continent of India.

Prior to the early 20th century Bali had been very largely insulated from the influences of the outside world. Throughout society there was an acceptance of the traditional beliefs, including the ever present involvement of the Gods, the Ancestors, and the natural and super-natural forces in the doings of people who were still living on earth.

The people of Bali, most especially the ruling classes of Bali (the Tri Wangsa:- Brahmana, Satria, Wesia) were brutally introduced to the world outside Bali with the Dutch invasions that culminated in the puputans. The story is well known, so I won't repeat it here, however, there are several things that must be understood when we are talking about the puputans.

Firstly, there is the meaning of the word itself:- puputan means to bring to an end. It is a finishing. When the Balinese court in Badung walked into the Dutch guns and were slaughtered, or alternatively, committed suicide with their own weapons, they were bringing to an end a time in the world that had become untenable. The Badung Puputan occurred in 1906.

In Klungkung there was second puputan that occurred in 1908. The popular story is that Dewa Agung Jambe, the Raja of Klungkung, and the acknowledged senior ruler of Bali confronted the invading Dutch forces with his most powerful pusaka keris in his hand, and struck the earth with it. He believed that he held in his hand the combined power of all of his ancestors, and his expectation was that the earth would open and the Dutch forces would be swallowed. Well, it did not happen. There was a puputan in Klungkung too. Another finishing.

Badung and Klungkung were the two major events of the Dutch invasions, but Dutch forces penetrated and destroyed other areas as well, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.

When the Dutch occupied Bali they introduced political reforms that effectively reduced the powers of the old Balinese courts. There was difficulty in finding exactly who should lead a court, since there had been such massive losses of the elite classes, most especially of the K'satriyas, the class that provided the actual ruler.

The common people (Sudras) had lost faith in the ability of the Triwangsa to guide and protect them, and their faith in the traditional ways of their ancestors had been shaken.

By the 1920's, Bali was on the "grand tour of the east" map for those who could afford it. European and American society ladies and gentlemen were touring through Jawa and Bali by automobile, horse and carriage, and on horseback.

Amongst these Europeans was a young German, Walter Spies. In 1923 he was in Central Jawa, and then in 1927 he moved to Bali and settled in the Ubud area. At the outbreak of WWII Spies was deported from the Dutch East Indies, because he was a German national. The boat he was on was bombed and he drowned at sea. However, Spies, and other German artists who followed him had a monumental influence on Balinese art, and the way in which Balinese artists saw and told of their world.

Spies was perhaps the most influential person from a western culture to awaken the world to Bali. Many people give credit for this awakening to Miguel Covarrubias , but Covarrubias got most of his information from Spies.

In short, without Walter Spies, Balinese art as we know it today would simply not exist. If we want to see indigenous Balinese art we need to look at works that pre-date the 1920's. Something like the paintings on the ceiling of the "Palace of Justice" in Klungkung. These paintings have been refreshed over the years, but they remain true to the indigenous Balinese style.

Walter Spies has to large extent given today's "Ten Day Package Tourists" the Bali that they know and love.

WWII brought the pre-war tourism to an end, and then the struggle of the Indonesian people against European domination made Bali not particularly desirable as a tourist destination until the late 1960's --- 1966 was perhaps the watershed year, after this the tourists began to come back to Bali.

Inevitably these tourists were ready buyers for "Balinese Art" :- an art that had been created to a large degree by the influence of German artists, amongst whom Walter Spies was pre-eminent.

Consider the Balinese experience during the 20th century:-

Dutch invasion, the extermination of the ruling elite, the loss of belief in traditional ways by the common people, the commencement of tourism and the beginning of a second invasion by European and other tourists, the Japanese occupation of WWII, the turmoil and mass executions of the "Struggle for Freedom", the next invasion of tourists which until the present grows ever stronger.

Is it surprising that some aspects of Balinese art and culture have altered to the point where a Balinese time traveller from, say, 1800, would not recognise what he was looking at?

Our primary interest here is the keris, in the current thread, specifically the characters represented in Balinese hilts.

When we attempt to understand the identity of a figure depicted in a Balinese hilt we need to ask ourselves how old the hilt is, who made the hilt, and for whom it was made.

If that hilt is post, say, 1930, there is a very strong possibility that it has been created as an art work, rather than as a work that incorporates belief in an ancestor, or a deity. If it has been created as an art work, the way in which that art has been executed will almost certainly be a way that is calculated to appeal to European tastes.

This, of course, does not mean that the depiction is no longer genuinely Balinese, what it does mean is that the way in which the depiction has been executed, and the artist who created it, have both diverged from traditional roots and are now moving along a path first opened after 1906, when Balinese society and culture was changed forever.

Just as the identification of symbols in European art has to a very great extent been lost, and is now only partially understood by a few specialist scholars, the symbolism in Balinese art is no longer widely understood, if it is understood at all.

Carvers and other artists may copy, or attempt to copy, old forms, but very often they err when depicting attributes of the various characters, especially when they are working from memory. Combine these errors with the well known variations that are inherent in Balinese depictions of Hindu deities, and what we have is often an unsolvable puzzle. We may be able to guess the intended identity of the character, but can we be certain? I rather think not.
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Old 23rd January 2016, 12:40 AM   #29
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Just to add to the confusion here is a hilt from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC that it also identifies as Bayu. Seems questionable to me for a few reasons, but you would think that a museum of such high reputation would considerer sources and information more cautiously.
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Last edited by David : 23rd January 2016 at 12:50 AM.
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Old 23rd January 2016, 10:11 AM   #30
Jean
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Originally Posted by David
Just to add to the confusion here is a hilt from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC that it also identifies as Bayu. Seems questionable to me for a few reasons, but you would think that a museum of such high reputation would considerer sources and information more cautiously.


I am not a museum curator but this style of hilt is usually identified as Ravana from the leaf or sword in his right hand
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