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Old 1st November 2022, 10:56 PM   #1
A. G. Maisey
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Default The Knaud

Earlier this year David Van Duuren's new book on the Knaud Keris was published.

It is a book that has been written using the notes and research that Mr. Van Duuren prepared & carried out twenty years ago when The Knaud was rediscovered and he had it in his hands.

It provides a very revealing backstory that relates to Charles Knaud and his acquisition of the keris.

This book answers a lot of the questions that serious students of the keris have mulled over for many years.

It also raises some questions, questions that could perhaps be quite interesting to investigate further.

Has anybody here read this book, and if so, what questions might Mr. Van Duuren's expose of The Knaud raise?
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Old 1st November 2022, 11:33 PM   #2
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"39 pp.; 15 illustrations. Leiden, 2022. Pbk. After more than 100 years, a long-lost keris resurfaced in the Netherlands: the legendary "Knaud kris". In literature, this item was named after Charles Knaud, who acquired it at the end of the 19th century as a gift from a Javanese ruler. This extra-ordinary keris won an award during an art and craft exhibition held at Batavia (1884), was cast in plaster by the museum of the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences and discussed by the renowned Indologist dr. N.J. Krom, Head of the Archaeological Service in the Dutch East Indies, in his standard work (1920) on the art of ancient Java. The Knaud keris is now on display at the Amsterdam Tropenmuseum, where it is kept on a long-term loan. This publication is the first to present the historico-cultural uniqueness of this keris along with its adornments and date. It is comprehensively dealt with beginning with its anecdotal acquisition by C. Knaud on Java up to its discovery in the vault of a Dutch bank. The rich symbolism and mythological scenes are discussed in detail, as is the laboratory research into the metal and metal alloy utilised when forging the blade. An analysis confirms N.J. Krom's presumption it is not only a very special artefact created in East Java during the 14th century but also that, considering its history and style, it must be linked to the temple site of Panataran which dates from the Majapahit era."
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Old 2nd November 2022, 02:39 AM   #3
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Thanks Rick.

I considered putting up something like this, but I figured that somebody would need to already know what The Knaud is before they can answer.

But that little introduction itself is a real good lead in, because what is actually written in it does itself raise questions.

In this thread, I do not want to raise the questions myself, I would like other people to see if they can raise questions similar to my own.
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Old 3rd November 2022, 12:29 AM   #4
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I have read the book and greatly enjoyed it.

I thought that seeing the 1920 photo in comparison to the 2021 photos was almost physically painful. Beyond that, I'm not sure I'm knowledgeable on the subject to say much, but I very much hope to see more knowledgeable forums members comment on the book.

Thanks,
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Old 3rd November 2022, 02:14 AM   #5
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Thank you for your comment Lief.

I'm hoping that some people with knowledge of early keris, and marketing practice in Jawa, and indeed, marketing practice to collectors in the rest of the world, also take time to think through a few things.
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Old 3rd November 2022, 03:29 AM   #6
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Iíll jump in.

Disclaimer: I donít have the book and Iím not knowledgeable in Keris.

Iíve found the following sentence (particularly in bold) intriguing:

"An analysis confirms N.J. Krom's presumption it is not only a very special artefact created in East Java during the 14th century but also that, considering its history and style, it must be linked to the temple site of Panataran which dates from the Majapahit era."

Keris shown in Candi Panataran as far as I know is leaf shape Keris with very basic features such as gandhik polos (non figural gandhik), whereas the Knaud Keris clearly show a figural gandhik and on top of that there are also some detailed carvings on the bladeís surface.

Iím interested to know what analysis confirms that the Knaud Keris was created during the 14th century?

Best Regards,

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Old 3rd November 2022, 03:47 AM   #7
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There is a number impressed or engraved on the keris blade that has been written in one of the ways that dates were written during the Majapahit era.

Most people assume that this date was placed there at the time of manufacture.

So linking this number to a date of origin is pure assumption. It could have been placed there at any time.

The Knaud is the only keris-like object that we know of that has a number permanently affixed to it.

Further, why must it be linked to Panataran?

Even if we could find exactly similar pictures in the Panataran bas reliefs to the pictures on the Knaud that does not prove anything except that the Knaud pictures might have been copied from Panataran, and this could happen at any time after the construction of Panataran.

There is much more that needs to be queried in the Knaud story.
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Old 3rd November 2022, 04:57 AM   #8
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I also haven't read the book yet, but am interested to.
JustYS - the point you highlighted also caught my eye, for similar reasons and questions. I don't think it's fair that I ask what Knaud's conclusions and findings are without trying to read the book myself first, so I'll refrain from that, but I hope that the association with Panataran is more than just the keris being of the same kind of style that is depicted at Panataran.

I also wonder whether there is much to be said about the situation that surrounds the gifting of this keris to Knaud the physician. The story as I know is that Knaud treated Paku Alam V's son for an illness, and the keris is apparently PA-V's gift of gratitude to Knaud for his service.


I don't believe Knaud was keris-interested in the same way Groneman was and even if he was I don't know if he had the means (or desire) to question what he was told about a keris. He was also Dutch, which I can only assume meant that he was viewed with some ambivalence by a people and culture who sometimes view even people of related cultures ambivalently, but I don't know how directly relevant this is. Despite being Dutch he apparently was also interested in Javanese mysticism, so had to have been exposed to the idea of a keris having isi and tuah.

With all that in mind, I do find it difficult to believe that this keris is everything that is claimed about it. Yes it was gifted freely with gratitude, but I have often seen this keris described as a pusaka. I don't think pusakas are gifted in this way, and gratitude does not seem to be a factor in determining the next custodian of a pusaka.

If the author referred to notes or correspondences as evidences for their conclusions or speculations, then I wonder if they considered that the concept of a consistent truth or fact is hard to pin down in or irrelevant in Javanese culture and many other Indonesian cultures. I myself have been confronted with what the Western side of my brain sees as deliberate embellishments or interpolations, by people I love and trust in my family and extended family, concerning tosan aji and other related things. It got to the point that I really wondered what the point of being shamelessly lied to was - nothing I was told could have been historically true or consistent.
How can the story about an object that I know be different to the story my sister or my mother knows, despite being told by the same person?
How is it that who we know to be two distinctly different people in history can now be described as the same person?
How can one historical person be buried in several locations, with all grave sites considered to be the real resting place of the person, with no custodians of the burial site disputing the claim of the other?

I know better to now know that I wasn't being lied to, and these people I know are not liars - they just operate in a completely different world to me and that matters in fundamental, sometimes irreconcilable ways.

The word I find that comes closest to this in English is retcon - a portmanteau of retroactive continuity. Here's a fine definition from the first paragraph of its wikipedia page:
Retroactive continuity, or retcon for short, is a literary device in which established diegetic facts in the plot of a fictional work (those established through the narrative itself) are adjusted, ignored, supplemented, or contradicted by a subsequently published work which recontextualizes or breaks continuity with the former.
It goes on to explain that authors use retcons under the "assumption that the changes are unimportant to the audience compared to the new story which can be told".

In Western cultures we accept this in film and literature, and even then, sometimes with passionate argument and dispute. We confine it to the world of fiction that we consume for enjoyment. We do not expect to find retcons in real things with real histories because we associate it with incorrectness at best or manipulation and Orwellian-ness at worst.

We know by now that that is not the case in other cultures - certainly not the culture from which the keris came. To gift a legitimately old keris to someone is not a cheapskate's offer, but perhaps its gifters felt that it needed something more than what reality could permit. And as we know, in some cultures reality may not be an obstacle to elevating something to a status more befitting of the situation, the persons involved, or posterity.

Last edited by jagabuwana; 3rd November 2022 at 04:59 AM. Reason: Typos.
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Old 3rd November 2022, 06:01 AM   #9
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Those comments of yours are very pertinent JG. Your own socio-cultural background has permitted you to immediately see one of the major fault-lines in the Knaud argument.

In fact, David Van Duuren delves pretty deeply into the back story of the Knaud's acquisition and gives us a lot of info that we, or at least I, did not previously know. For example:-

Charles Knaud was not a "doctor" in the European sense of the word, he claimed to have trained under a Javanese dukun, and his powers of healing came from a Javanese, not a Dutch, foundation.

Dutch doctors had already attempted to heal the young prince, but had failed, Charley Knaud enters the scene, detects that the prince has been subjected to guna-guna, ie, black magic, and promptly cures him.

What we know of CharleyK mostly comes from his grand nephew John Knaud who wrote an article about CharleyK many years after his death. According to this article CharleyK was an eccentric, a painter, and an art collector who had a very high degree of interest in Javanese beliefs.

The keris itself was brought into the spotlight after Charley got hold of it, then it disappeared, it was commented upon by N.J.Krom, it was rediscovered in 2002.

In his book, David Van Duuren is rather dismissive of the back story, he concentrates on the keris itself, not the embroidery surrounding it. You yourself understand that convention in Javanese society is that reality must never be permitted to get in the way of making a story, or anything else for that matter, better or more interesting than it really is. The truth of something is often so exceedingly boring, one of the reasons why gratuitous truths are never welcome.

So, let us just concentrate on the keris itself. I will continue to call it a "keris", but frankly, when I look at many of the physical features of The Knaud, I am forced to think of it as a "keris-like object", rather than a keris.

What questions can be directed at the physical characteristics of The Knaud?
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Old 3rd November 2022, 06:37 AM   #10
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Withdrawing my comment.

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Old 3rd November 2022, 07:00 AM   #11
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Hi jagabuwana,

I agreed with you, I will try to get hold of this book as well.

Hi Alan,

Looking at the keris itself, my first impression is that the pawakan looks awkward. The sharp bent above the gandhik seems to me lack of harmony.
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Old 3rd November 2022, 08:08 AM   #12
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Perhaps we might consider the dimensions & proportions?

Does this keris have a separate gonjo or is gonjo iras?

Have we looked closely at the pesi?

Have we considered the actual blade sculpting that is covered by the bronze overlay?

Lots of things going on here gentleman. Can we relate all these things to the Keris Buda form?

Harmony?

Well, from that perspective it is certainly no symphony.
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Old 3rd November 2022, 08:30 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey View Post
Perhaps we might consider the dimensions & proportions?

Does this keris have a separate gonjo or is gonjo iras?

Have we looked closely at the pesi?

Have we considered the actual blade sculpting that is covered by the bronze overlay?

Lots of things going on here gentleman. Can we relate all these things to the Keris Buda form?

Harmony?

Well, from that perspective it is certainly no symphony.
Thank you for posing these questions Alan.

To my untrained eyes, Knaud Keris has round pesi, which would not be conform to Keris Buda that typically square pesi?

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Old 3rd November 2022, 01:48 PM   #14
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Thank you for your comments JYS.

In fact, I've been looking at pictures of that Knaud for years, I mean literally years. I've probably looked at The Knaud pictures more than I've looked at any other keris or pictures of keris.

In spite of all that looking I could not make up my mind in respect of two little questions, just little questions, maybe most people would not think that these little questions were even questions, just idle, wandering curiosity. But to me these questions were the single biggest unanswered questions about The Knaud, and they were unanswerable, because The Knaud was lost, but then it just sort of magically reappeared again, it came into the hands of a highly respected writer on the keris, David Van Duuren, and a door opened.

Mr. Van Duuren took the whole legend apart, top to bottom, and in the process answered many questions, something that I am very grateful for. But he did not answer the two questions that had worked their way to the top of my question list.

So, after reading his book, I wrote to him and asked if the gonjo was round or square, most especially if it was round or square at the point where it exited the gonjo, I also asked if there was any evidence if it had ever had a metuk fitted, and if it had an integral (iras) gonjo or if the gonjo was separate to the blade.

Mr. Van Duuren responded promptly and without equivocation:-

1) the pesi is round
2) there is no evidence of a metuk
3) the gonjo is iras, ie, it was forged as integral with the blade

I currently have custody of four typical keris buda, well, three are typical, the fourth is much larger than typical, but also of typical buda form, one of the three has lost its original gonjo and its gonjo has been replaced. All four have or had gonjos that were forged separately to the body of the blade.

Apart from these four KB's I also have two transitional keris, that is, keris that bear some features of a KB and some features of the Modern Keris. Both these transitional keris have gonjos that were forged separately to the body of the blade.

In the past I have had other KB's that I passed on to other people. I have also handled KB's that belonged to other people, or that were for sale and I did not buy.

I have only ever seen one genuine old KB that had a gonjo iras and that keris was a cast bronze keris.

I have never seen a genuine old KB that had been made with a round pesi.

In Jawa, the very first thing that any keris literate person looks at in order to form an opinion on the age of a very old keris is the pesi at the point where it emerges from the gonjo. If it has a round pesi it is eliminated from consideration as being of extreme age.

So, is it possible for me to accept that a keris with a round pesi and an integral gonjo actually was produced prior to the collapse of Majapahit?

But the pesi and the gonjo are only two questionable characteristics, there are also other things that raise questions.
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Old 3rd November 2022, 06:17 PM   #15
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I don't have the book, nor have I read it. The only information I have is from the posts here, and the pictures that I can see on my computer screen.

The question I have relates to the apparent wear on the carved figures: how might it have occurred, on an object that would presumably have haf great significance? It seems odd that this should be the case. Was it an intentional part of the design, to emulate the worn figures on carved stone statuary? On first glance, that was my impression.

My experience with sculpture from the area of its origin is nearly nil, as is most of my understanding of the keris, and indeed of the culture from whence it sprang, so I hope my effrontery in commenting will be viewed in that context, and forgiven for its lack of sophistication.
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Old 3rd November 2022, 09:32 PM   #16
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While reeding van Duuren's booklet I was stunned how thin in fact the story of Charles Knaud's brothers grandson (who "was familiar with direct descendants existence, but not personally acquainted with them") is - not better and not worse then contemporary keris-selling-stories in Indonesia.

There surely are many questions about this object, because almost every physical part of it is a question. I would like to adress a small, seemingly unimportant feature.

On the Sogokan side of the bronze plaque there is depicted a carriage, drawn by two horses (?) and a single rider on a horse. My problem with this depiction is a following one: until now I don't know of any similar representation of carriages wheels in such spatial way in East-Javanese period art.

The same I can say about the representation of the dynamic motion of the horse with rider - I don't know the proper name of this motion, let's call it a leaping horse. It is something we can find in Middle-East/Indian/European art, perhaps in later Javanese manuscript illuminations or Wayang, but until now I haven't seen anything comparable from East Javanese period.

Also exactly the same spatial rendering of wheels of carriage (and the animals which are drawing it) can be find on Wayang Kulit figures, which date back to 19th century.

I also would like to address a section in van Duuren's conclusion I have a problem with. It defends authenticity of the object and he writes:

"Moreover, do so at a time when Javanese antiquities were only of value to a small number of ethnological museums and an extremely small circle of experts. After all, a commercial market for collectors, antique dealers and auctions where many Asian antiquities are handled - and where an Indo-Javanese keris presented as genuine would not attract a high price if nobody had realized it was a fake - did not exist."

In the collection of Raffles there are 132 metal figurines. Most of them are from Middle-/East-Javanese period, but over 20 are datable of end of 1700ties/beginning of 1800ties. They are very crude forgeries of art from earlier periods, collected in 1811-1816. That means that already at that time Javanese must have seen here a possibility of profit and started to make these again after a gap of about 300 years. How much more advanced the "art" could have been in 1880ties! Let's remember - the Knaud's keris entered the reality as a submission to "Exhibition of Products of Some Brances of Industry and Art", was given the second prize, and apparently was part of a collection, which "has never been described anywhere", not the best provenance we can think of.

I think, there is a quite high percent of possibility the Knaud's Keris is a hoax, and this percent did not become smaller with me after reading the booklet. On the other side, I must accept, that I actually know almost nothing. I would like to make an illustration of that feeling with another keris, the state heirloom of Kutai Kartanagara. The tradition says, it comes from time of Majapahit, it is depicted as drawing in Schmeltz's article from 1890. Regrettably this is the only photograph of it I could find - enjoy!
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Old 3rd November 2022, 09:39 PM   #17
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The possible possible model for Knaud's keris?
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Old 3rd November 2022, 10:55 PM   #18
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Yes Gustav, precisely so.

This statue is located in the museum at Trowulan, the site of the capital of Majapahit. I visited this museum and took a number of photographs of this statue on 3rd. April 2018. This photo you have posted is exactly the same as one of my photos, but I cannot recall posting that photo to this forum.

That depression in the blade edge was caused by damage it is not original to the statue. The info board identifies this statue as either:- Garuda, or Minak Jinggo, or Maha Kala, or Bairawa. In other words they're not too sure exactly who it is supposed to be.

So, exactly when was that statue discovered and made available for public viewing?

This would have been before the Trowulan Museum existed because the museum was built in 1924, and Charles Knaud had the keris in his possession long before this.

When we know more about the statue, then we have the possibility of knowing more about when the Knaud keris was actually produced.

When I photographed the statue I made no connection between it & The Knaud, it was only later when I was looking at my photos of it that it dawned on me that I was looking at the inspiration for the Knaud Keris.

However, even without that gift of the statue with its damaged keris, there are far too many abberations present in The Knaud for it to be accepted as a product of the Majapahit era.

ADDITION

Gustav, I read your post #17 before your Post #16, but now I have looked at your #16.

You have reached the same conclusions about The Knaud that I reached about 40 years ago, but was unable to substantiate.

I reached my conclusions after I saw recently produced "Majapahit" artefacts that were being purchased in Solo by an American who lived in Solo and made his living by sending these brand new relics of past times to dealers and auction houses in USA & Europe. Then I learnt how present day forgers in Jawa did not produce forgeries for the open market, but already had the victim in mind and were in the process of priming him for the Big Hit while the forged object was being prepared. A particularly well known keris and art collector who was internationally famous as an authority on Javanese art was a favourite target of the Shonky Brotherhood.

Recognised reference books that deal with Javanese art contain photos of blatant fakes, the same is true of museum exhibits, and items in private collections. We are not talking about little money here, we are talking about very, very big money. This is still going on, right now, as I am writing this.

The reason I began to deal keris in the first place was because it was very, very obvious that in Indonesia the knowledge was held by the dealers --- as much is said in Centhini, that was 200 years ago. To truly understand any antiques or antiquities in Jawa & Bali one needs to become a dealer, nobody has the slightest possibility of learning much at all by standing outside and looking in through a window.

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Old 3rd November 2022, 11:43 PM   #19
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Thank you for your comments Bob.

Gustav cut through what I had hoped was going to be a few pages of group investigation, keeping interested parties busy thinking through propositions and coming to conclusions for a couple of weeks, but what he has posted is absolutely correct.

It still might be interesting to look at all the other irregularities with The Knaud, but I believe we can now see that we have all been just a little bit misled for the last 100 years or so.

Here is a link to a very good colour photo of both sides of The Knaud.

https://www.artoftheancestors.com/bl...vid-van-duuren

The overlay is bronze that is permanently fixed, the dark patches on the bronze are copper repairs. We do not know at this point how that overlay was fixed to the iron body, it might have been made and then soldered in place, or it might have been carved into the overlay of bronze at the time when this object was produced.

Anything that we believe we can deduce from looking at photos of this Knaud keris must be measured by the understanding that we are almost certainly looking at a post Majapahit production, probably post Mojo by a few hundred years or so.

But one thing that does come out of this close look at The Knaud is that David Van Duuren's book is now a publication that I believe every truly serious student of the keris needs in his book case, together with notes on tipped in half pages.

In my opinion, Mr. Van Duuren's book has now become just as essential as all the other classic keris publications.
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Old 4th November 2022, 02:42 AM   #20
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Hello Alan,

Quote:
This statue is located in the museum at Trowulan, the site of the capital of Majapahit. I visited this museum and took a number of photographs of this statue on 3rd. April 2018. This photo you have posted is exactly the same as one of my photos, but I cannot recall posting that photo to this forum.
Just for your peace of mind: You did post pics & close-ups of this statue here a while back.

We did discuss the broken edge of the blade back then. I did not made the connection that this might very well be the basis for the Knaud keris - it's a pretty convincing working hypothesis. Iconic and unique pieces/representations can be traps for forgers, especially when working from published pictures. If they only had stayed more true to the actual decor on the blade, the piece would have raised much fewer eyebrows!

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Old 4th November 2022, 02:51 AM   #21
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Hello Gustav,

Thanks for your insightful postings!

Quote:
I would like to make an illustration of that feeling with another keris, the state heirloom of Kutai Kartanagara. The tradition says, it comes from time of Majapahit, it is depicted as drawing in Schmeltz's article from 1890.
It's pretty clear that keris like these would be referred to as Mojo.

As you already inferred, it's obvious that quite a few of these keris buda (and related pieces) are of much later manufacture though.

Thanks for posting the pic - I had not seen any pic of this piece and it's a valuable addition to the artwork in Schmeltz!

Regards,
Kai
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Old 4th November 2022, 03:41 AM   #22
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Thanks for that Kai.

I did a quick search but I could not find where I'd posted it.

As I wrote in my previous post I did not really make a connection when I saw the statue, I was too busy dodging the photo police, it was only much later that I made the connection.

Yes, true that if the conman had made something that stayed true to type The Knaud would probably have been accepted as real, but if you want to sell something for big duit to an art collector, it helps if what you are presenting is a dated one off, and way, way back the internet was not around. I most sincerely doubt that even the smartest shonk could pull off something like The Knaud today.

But they do still pull off some pretty incredible coups. I recently saw evidence of what I would guess was a multi-million dollar bit of shonkery.

How these dogs sleep at night is beyond my understanding.
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