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Old 19th February 2011, 10:39 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Gustav
David, there is no victory at all possible, and please accept my sincere apologies, if my tone seemed or was adversarial.

You are absolute wright, there is most probably no possibility this keris beeing a gift directly from a Balinese court. Other possibilities each could have their speculations and averment proofs. I still have the deceptive idea, to follow each possibility would give me (and us) a better understanding or probably only a feeling of history, and in the case of this keris history is pure adventure.

My kingdom for a time machine...
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Old 19th February 2011, 10:53 PM   #32
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... and this keris really IS a time machine
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Old 20th February 2011, 12:08 AM   #33
A. G. Maisey
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The post that originally filled this hole was of the wrong material, so I dug it up and shifted it to a more suitable environment.

Last edited by A. G. Maisey : 20th February 2011 at 01:33 AM.
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Old 20th February 2011, 01:04 AM   #34
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Thanks for your response Alan, but i believe that you meant this for my Bali keris thread. I don't seem to be able to move a single post. If you would like to copy and past this to the other thread i will delete it here.
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Old 20th February 2011, 01:29 AM   #35
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Yes David, I did.

Sorry, under a bit of pressure at the moment, I was invaded earlier today by an army of about 20 Indonesians. I'm trying to talk to them and get them organised into boats at the same time I am talking to you. Guess it demonstrates I can't do more than about 4 or 5 things at the same time.

Will copy.
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Old 25th February 2011, 02:54 AM   #36
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Sorry for changing the topic (I suppose Gustav and David are done with their very enriching discourse) ..

This keris in good condition gives me the impression that either the non-tropical climate is better for kerises or the Japanese way of maintenance (choji oil and uchiko) is better from preservation point of view. I also bet that the keris hasn't been stained in centuries.

However, seeing that the keris still has some traces of warangan, I doubt if it has seen much uchiko rubbing powder on it.

Any opinion from the maintenance perspective?
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Old 25th February 2011, 04:41 AM   #37
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Hullo everybody,

Hmmmmm ..... interesting piece.
So far, no one's really discussed the blade.
Perhaps I'll start it off, if I may, by saying that, as I recall, the damascene is comprised of metals which are not too dissimilar, thus giving an overall 'grey' impression.
The size of the blade is closer to Soenda and Bali kerises than Djawa kerises.
Also please note that the fret-work may not be of similar shape as that on later Djawa or Bali kerises.


Last edited by Amuk Murugul : 25th February 2011 at 05:12 AM.
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Old 12th March 2011, 12:50 AM   #38
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Hope the Sendai city and other parts of Japan recover quickly from this latest massive earthquake/tsunami. Same goes to the quake victims in Yunnan, China.
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Old 21st September 2012, 05:03 AM   #39
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hello all. i stumbled upon this thread because gustav posted a picture of these same blades on this other thread: 'a very old kris'.

i guess some sort of a cross-reference would help, by me posting that link above. and here's a larger pic by the way, still coming wikimedia commons.

on that note, i'm outta here!
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Old 21st September 2012, 10:31 AM   #40
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Dear All,

with some luck I have found the very important article of Wahyono Martowikrido about this kris on the net.

Wahyono Martowikrido



In July 26,1997, the author has the opportunity to visit Sendai City Museum, which is situated at Sendai City, about 350 km to the northeast of Tokyo, Japan, lies on the eastern coast of Honshu Island. The main purpose to visit the museum is to observe a keris[1], which is in the collection of the museum, said to be dated keris from at least the end of the 16th century A.D. or early 17 th Century A.D. The author gained information about the existence of the keris from Dietrich Drescher, a German keris expert. The later gained information about existence of the keris from a curator of the National Museum, Singapore. The author in 1997 received a grant from the Tokyo National Museum to visit Japan. He used this opportunity to visit Sendai City Museum. In thus opportunity, the author would like to thanks to those who made this visit possible: the Tokyo National Museum and the curators, Prof. Tatsuro Hirai from the Tama Art University who was willing to accompany the author to visit the Sendai City Museum, the curators of the museum, especially Mr. Yun’ichi Uchiyama, Mr. Tomoyuki Higuchi and Ms. Akemi Takahashi who kindly prepared the keris for the observation. Mr. Kazuhiro Sazaki, an ex-curator of the museum, who is interested in the Javanese keris, was also present.

As the result of the observation, an article has been written by the author, entitled “ Report on a Keris in the Collection of Sendai City Museum, Japan”, Jakarta, 1997. Unfortunately this article was not published. This present article is based on the “report” with some corrections and additions.

Apart from the above mentioned article, the Keris has been mentioned in some publications:

1988 - Japanese Delegation for Europe in Keicho Period with appendix: Japanese articles and paintings (in Japanese), Catalogue of Sendai City Museum I, Date Masamune’s Mission to Rome in 1615. Sendai City Museum.

1995 - The World and Japan-Tensho and Keicho Mission to Europe 16th-17th Centuries (in Japanese). Sendai City Museum.

1998 - Sasaki, Kazuhiro, A Fundamental Study on Hasekura’s Kastane and Kris. Bulletin of Sendai City Museum 18:1-33.

1998 - Sasaki, Kazuhiro, The Kastane and the Kris; Their Arrival in Japan in 1620, in Royal Armouries Yearbook, Vol. 3, pp. 141-144, Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds.

1998 - Drescher, Dietrich, and Achim Weihrauch, Ein fürstlicher Kris-ein kleinod in der Tradition von Majapahit, Indonesien, Kunstwerke-Weltbilder, Linz. Pp. 40-51.

In the two publications by Sendai City Museum, very little was known about the keris and it was considered as a dagger. In the “report on a keris in the Collection of Sendai City Museum” it is written the short history of Hasekura Tsunenaga and the preliminary description of the keris with some limitations in the description. Mr. Kazuhiro Sasaki in his article published in Royal Armouries Yearbook 1998 tells us about the detailed description of the keris and on the fact that the keris and the kastane ( a sword of Ceylon) were brought by Hasekura Tsunenaga and presented to Date Masamune (the lord of the Sendai Domain). Dietrich Drescher and Achim Weihrauch in their article include the photographs of the keris by Kazuhiro Sasaki in order to compare with the keris MVK Wien, INV. nr. 91.919.a, b. (Waffersammlung, Kaiserliches Zeughaus, Weltliche Schatzkammer;1750).

This article is written with the assumption that the Javanese and Balinese cultures were similar or almost similar, especially on the keris making. The Balinese court was established by the Majapahit nobility who came to Bali after the fall of the great kingdom in the 15 th century A. D.[2] Artisans from East Java were moved to Bali during the time, brought with them their knowledge of keris and forgery.

Hasekura Tsunenaga

The keris was brought to Japan by Hasekura Tsunenaga, a Japanese who went to Spain and Rome in early 17 th century A. D. The embassy was sent by Date Masamune (1571-1630) a feudal lord of Sendai domain, to visit Mexican and Europe headed by Hasekura Tsunenaga (1571-1622). On the delegation’s return to Japan in 1620 , a kastane and the keris were presented to Masamune[3].

In the later part of 16 th century and early years of the 17th century, the government of Japan underwent major changes in power from leadership of Oda Nobunaga to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and then to Tokugawa Ieyasu. This was also the “Golden Age of Exploration” in Europe and as the Europeans looked toward Japan with interest, so did the Japanese look to Europe. Under the guidance of father Alexandro Valignano of the Society of Jesus, a group of Japanese youths made a voyage from Kyusu to Europe via the Indian Ocean and had an audience with Pope Gregory XIII and Sixtus V in 1585. Thirty years later, another delegation led by Hasekura Tsunenaga under the order from Date Masamune of Sendai, and accompanied by a Francescan priest named Father Luis Sotelo, crossed the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They met King Philip III of Spain and Pope Paul V in 1615[4]. Hasekura Tsunenaga was a vassal of Date Masamune, a daimyo of Sendai area. In September 1613, Date Masamune asked Hasekura Tsunenaga to go to Spain via Mexico with the Franciscan priest Father Luis Sotelo. He was also accompanied by more than 20 Japanese persons. They were going by sea following the Spanish sea-route. In December 1613, they reached Mexico, and the trip continued across the Atlantic, heading for Spain. In January 1615 Hasekura Tsunenaga met the Spanish King, Philip III and presented him a letter from Date Masamune. It was mentioned in the letter that Date Masamune wanted to open a commercial trading between Spain and Japan. In February 1615, Hasekura Tsunenaga was baptized in a monastery in Spain, probably in Madrid. He got a Christian name; Don Philip Francesco.

Accompanied by seven Japanese persons, Hasekura Tsunenaga went to Rome and in November 1615 he met Pope Paul V. He received citizenship (civil rights) of the city of the Rome from a senior statesmen in Rome. They went back to Spain by land as they arrived in Spain, they asked about the condition of opening trade between both countries, but unfortunately the Spanish government did not approve it. Hasekura Tsunenaga went back to Japan via Mexico, and stay for two years in Manila before he went back to Sendai in 1620. He died two years later (1622)in Sendai[5].

On his way back to Japan, Hasekura brought with him many articles gained during his trip and one of them is the keris. He also brought a short sword commonly called kastane, which was the product of Srilangka (Sasaki, 1998). We do not know exactly when, where and whom he gained these objects from.

In 1789, Sato Tozo, a vassal of the Date Clan and keeper of its swords, compiled a list of the swords and spears owned by the family in the Kenso Hiroku (secret chronicles of swords and spears) and summarized the two swords as follow:

Foreign-made swords

Present to the Date family by Hasekura Tsunenaga.

In the Eiei Goyuraicho (an inventory record of the Date family’s possessions, including articles for daily use, kimonos, swords and another weapons and armor), Hino Tesshu and Tomizawa Kaikyu mention these two swords. They are recorded as being brought back by Hasekura Tsunenaga during his mission abroad.[6]

Eiei Goyuraicho was written between 1704 and 1710, no longer survives. Hino Tesshu was a vassal of the Date Clan and started working as keeper of the swords around 1650. Tomizawa Kaikyu was also a retainer with the Dates and it is highly probable that he was in charge of recording a study made in 1708 of Christianity and Firearms. From these two swords were brought back by Hasekura Tsunenaga and were given to Date Masamune[7] .

Description of the keris
The blade

The length from the hilt to the point of the keris is 511 mm, and weight 354 g. The scabbard is 408 mm. Long and weight 68 g. The blade is straight, made of iron, neatly made, with iron crust on the surface especially at the trip.The blade is straight the size is too big or too long compared to Javanese kerises. The iron has grey color with very fine grain and shiny. The features of the keris blade are very much similar to those of the Balinese keris. [8]

At the base of the keris we find a pijetan, sogokan, tikel alis and srawéyan , sekar kacang or tlalé gajah, jénggot, lambé gajah, jalu memet, grènèng[9]. The sogokan is deep with sharp janur (the bridge). The most interesting thing is that the srawéyan and the tikel alis in the keris is going up and ended only about ten centimeters from the tip of the blade. Usually, the grooves on both sides of the sogokan are only 5 cm long. The grènèng is cut in U form, while usually on kerises of later dates, it is cut in O form.[10] The pesi is round in its cross section and the size is considered a big one.

The gañja is about 1 cm. Thick, separately made to the blade. It is said that the material for the gañja was cut from the tip of the blade. The front part is called endas cecak (the lizards head) that has plinths in the front. The cutting of the endas cecak is triangular that reminds us to bronze gañja, now in the collection of the National Museum, Jakarta.[11] The head and the tail of the gañja are thick while usually the tail of it is thin. The bottom surface of the gañja is decorated with gold ornament, consisting of the scroll motif with leaves and red stones held in gold clamps in-groups of three. The gold is thick so it looks like a relief. On the sides of the gañja are also decorated with gold, but the gold is thinner than that at the bottom of it. The design is also scrolls with leaves. Gold ornament with thin gold leaf is also applied at the base of the keris on the left and right gusèn (the sides of keris blade near the sharp ends) as long as the sogokan. Many parts of the gold decoration are coming off. It is surprising that they are no traces of the gold leaf visible on the blade, on the part that the gold leaves coming off, which suggest that the gold leaves were penetrated onto the blade by gluing[12] .

The pamor is light grey in color, showing the patterns of curvy lines. The color of the pamor is not so contrast to that of the iron. This pamor can be categorized as pamor sanak, i.e. pamor made of different iron with so small difference in grain size and phosphorous (and arsenic) content in the metal.[13]

The Handle

The handlen is made of wood, carved in the shape of a human figure. The wood is light brown and lightweight, and it has a fine grain. The condition of the handle is poor, as cracks are visible and one of them is a big one that divides the handle in two vertically.[14] To avoid in breaking apart, the handle is tied with black threads in two parts, at the arms and at the bottom of the statue.

At the bottom of the handle is a hole, where the pẽsi is inserted into it. To make it hard or strong, the pési is covered with fragment of cloth. The cloth consist of. among others, a fragment of lurik (a stripe design cloth).

The handle is of a type that has no sélut i.e. a polished metal ornament that encases the base of the ukiran.[15] Metal decoration that covers the bottom part of the handle. The bottom part is undecorated, a little part of it at the base is covered with metal decoration (méndak).

The handle is shaped like human, a male figure is depicted in sitting position, with the head is leaning to the right. The hair is rolled up at the fronq and back of the head, heavily ornamented. This kind of hairdo is commonly called gélung céntung in Central Java. This kind of hairdo is also depicted on some heroes in the wayang leather puppets in Bali. In the temple relief of East Java, such as Candi Jago and Pénataran, this kind of gélung is abundantly depicted.[16] He has a jamang (headband) in front of the head above the forehead and it has a square decoration at the middle of it. On the sides, above the ears he has an up straight triangular decoration (sumping?), and behind the ears is decoration of scroll motif. At the earlobes are ear hangers with decoration of a flower in square.

The man has an oval face, with his eyes half-open, long nose and thick lips. The eyebrows are high. The face has smooth surface, with remnants of black ink or paint. The black ink is visible at the side of the fa4e, under the eyes, next to the nose, under the nose, etc. The neck is short and undecorated.

He is wearing a necklace, decorated with scroll motif, which is depicted in relief on the chest. A black paint (ink) is applied around his neck. Some ornaments are hanging over his shoulders. His hands are on the sides of his stomach. Both hands are decorated with armbands arid bracelets. Six rings (wires) are worn to make a set of armband, while another six rings (wires) intermingled at their ends to make a set of bracelet. His left hand is on the left of the stomach, with his forefinger straightforward as if he points on to something. His right hand is also on the right side of his stomach, his hand is downward and his palm is facing to the front.

His right foot is placed over (across) his left leg. This position shows that the man is in sitting position.[17] The lef leg is supposed to be downward, bent a little bit on the knee, but in this case it is not clearly depicted as it is decorated with scorlls and floral motif. On both sides it is decorated with scrolls, while at the back is a triangular floral motif. The base of it is plain space that acts like a bonggol or bungkul, which is the lower part of the handle.

The upper body is bare with a necklace hanging on the breast. A cloth uncovers the right leg. He is wearing a cawat, a piece of cloth that goes in between his legs and tightened with waistband on the waits. Asnother piece of cloth is wrapped around his waist.[18]

Selut and Mendak

Underneath the bungkul are the selut and the mendak that are made separately of metal, probably low carat gold. Mendak is the metal ring placed around the pesi (metal stick under the blade of the keris). The selut is the metal cover usually covers the bungkul (the round bottom of the handle). In the case of keris in the collection of the Sendai City Museum, the selut can be considered as “false” selut because it is only covers a small part of the bungkul not the whole one. The border between the covered part of the bungkul and the uncovered is marked with black line, using black paint or probably ink. The mendak and selut are made separately. One end of the mendak is made in away so that it can be inserted into the other end of the selut. The other end of the selut is covering the bottom part of the bungkul. The mendak is decorated on the side with plinths, while the selut is decorated with plinths at the bottom, a wide-band at the middle and a flaring rim at the top. The middle band is decorated with rounded objects (relief) and eight clamps to hold red gemstones (mirah delima) (delima=pomegranate, Punika granatum) Some of the red stones are missing.

The Sheat

The sheath or warangka is made of brown lightwood. The upper (the gambar) and the lower parts (the gandar) of the sheath are made of one bulk of wood, to make it called warangka iras. The gandar is considered long compared to the width of the gambar.

The gambar is in the shape of a square bodywith pointed parts on top corners. The left and the right parts of the gambar are almost symmetrical, except that one part of it is thicker and has a lower trip. The gambar (the upper part of the sheath) has two damages on both tips. The gambar is also decorated with paintings on both sides. It is of the type of ladrang. At one side, the painting decoration depicts a dark red heart. The shape of the heart is like a mango fruit. The heart is pierced in cross with two arrows. On both sides of the heart are doves, both are in flying position and biting the side of the heart. In many parts of yhe painting, large parts of the paint are coming off. Colors used in this painting are red, light green, green and dark, blue or black. The black is for the outlines.

The gandar underneath thus painting fully with the so-called alas-alasan pattern or pattern depicting various animals, inhabitants of the forest. Along the lenght and at the middle of the gandar is a ridge. The ridge runs at the middle of the gambar, from the top down to the tip, while at the other side, the ridge is absent. On both sides of the gandar and also along the ridge, are decorated with stripes of ochre or reddish brown color. This color might the basic color of the gandar as it is shown at the tip of it. At the tip, there is an area where the paint coming off, opening the large part of it and the ocre color is visible. From the photograph, it is clearly shown that the color painted on the gandar is different to that painted on the gambar. The paint on the gambar seems to be paler that that of the gandar.

The top of the gandar is painted with the five mountains (gunungan) with dark red color underneath the gunungan is vegetable or floral painting, followed by a white line placed in between two black out-line in zigzag manner to create spaces. It is depicting a long tree branch to make borders for the spaces. On the top space is painted a walking snake with open mouth, surrounded by floral or vegetable plants of blue or dark blue and red clors. Inderneath it is another space decorated with painting of a deer and a baby deer in front of him. Under the deer is decorated with floral motif colors used in this painting are red, light green, green and dark blue or black. The black is for the outlines.

The gandar underneath this painting is painted fully with the so-called alas-alasan pattern or a pattern depicting various animals, inhabitants-of the forest Along the length and at the middle of the gandar is a ridge. The ridge runs at the middle of the gambar from the top down to the tip, while at the other side, the ridge is absent. on both sides of the gandar and also along the ridge, are decorated with stripes of ochre or reddish brown color. This color might be the basic color of the gandar, as it is shown at the tip of it. At the tip, there is an area where the paint coming off, opening the large part of it and the ochre color is visible.

From the photograph, it is clearly shown that the color painted on the gandar is different to that painted on the gambar. The paint on the gambar seems to be paler than that of the

gandar. I

The top of the gandar is painted with -the five mountains (gunungan) with dark red color underneath the gunungan is vegetable or floral painting, followed by a white line placed in between two black out-line in zigzag manner to create spaces. It is depicting a long tree branch to make borders for the spaces. On the top space is painted a “walking" snake with open mouth, surrounded by floral or vegetable plants of blue or dark blue and red colors . Underneath it is another space decorated with painting of a deer and a baby deer in front of him. Under the deer is decorated with floral motif under the floral motif is depicted a wolf (or tiger?) facing to our left. Five mountains are depicted under the animal in blue (or black) and red colors and the space underneath are filled with floral motif. A white turkey (or cassowary bird) is depicted standing with open beak facing to the left (of us). underneath the bird is a space filled with floral motif or animal, but it is badly damage so that we can not identify the animal A quadruped is depicted under the above-mentioned space, unfortunately the painting at the body of the animal is damage. we can see the rear legs have hooves with spurs. Animal with hooves and spurs, as far as we know, are depicted in vietnamese ceramic as kylin.[19] Under the kylin is a bird or rooster with tail consisting of, beautiful feathers. The bird is facing to the left (to us) depicted with open beak. under the bird is another space painted with a quadruped that looks like a boar (or a wolf). The boar is painted in dark blue color. The following is a group of three mountains to be depicted in combination of red and blue colors, under the animal. The mountain depicted in the center of the group is the largest. Under the mountains is a large space filled with floral motif and probably animals too, but it is not clear because the paints are coming off .(peeling off) in many places.

Mountains, two triangular panels and a rectangular one are depicted at one side of the gambar. The drawings in the panels, are not clear, as the paints are damages.

The other side of the gambar is decorated with painting depicting two animals, probably y a crouching elephant and a quadruped facing each other, Surrounded by floral motif with birds or cocks. Large areas of, the paint are coming off, so it is difficult to identi y the animals n the painting. The quadruped depicted on the left is facing to the right. His rear legs are visible and it is turn out that one of them has a bird's claw as the hoof. It might be a depi ction of a mythical animal. The colors used in this painting are similar to those used in the painting on the other side of the gambar. Underneath this painting, the gandar is left unpainted.


The characteristics of the blade resemble those of the Balinese.[20] The characteristics are amorig others, the size is longer compared to the present Javanese on the surface is smooth and shiny, the greneng is cut in U form in combination with triangular or pointed form. The blade has iron crust, especially at the tip of it. The Javanese believe that the presence of the crust is a sign that the keris was contaminated with human blood, as it was probably used to stab a person. So far, there is no scientific proof about that opinion. From other keris collections in Europe we notice that the keris blade from, about 16th-17th century in Java (East Java) have similar characteristics as those found in Bali made from more or less the same period.[21] In the case of the keris from the Sendai city museum it is probably certain that it came from Bali, because the selut and the mendak are of Balinese style.

The mendak and selut are unique, because they are made as if a container with its lid. The selut is made pseudo or false, as it covers only a small part of the bungkul while usually it covers all. The fact that both objects are embellished with red stones is matching to the tradition at that time in Bali, as we found Balinese kerises with selut and mendak are decorated with red stones.[22] This tradition was not occurred in Java, instead the selut and mendak in Java were decorated with diamonds, or yakuts a material resembles rough diamond.

The handle is in the shape of a human, which is identified as Arjuna. This opinion is based on the fact that he has the hair-do that usually is worn by Arjuna as it is shown in the Balinese wayang puppet). He is depicted as having no moustache.[23]

The statue has two important gestures the first is the way he sit, while the second is the pointed left hand. He is sitting with his right leg down, while his left leg is crossed and placed over the right leg . This position is widely depicted in the relief of East Javanese temples, so that we can suspect that this sitting gesture has special meaning. The meaning is still obscure to us. The pointed left hand is a sign of anger. To point the forefinger to a victin or enemy is common in Javanese or Balinese culture. In the relief of Rama depicted in the inner wall of the main temple at Prambanan temple complex, Rama is depicted with his left hand pointed to his enemy with his fore-and middle fingers. Up to this day, pointed finger or fingers is still use in the Javanese and Balinese dancing as well to express the anger or the need to defeat an enemy. About pointing a finger to a victim is also mentioned by Gardner that the Malays have a much feared & from a sorcery, tuju : pointing out a victim to a spirit or evil, or setting the spirit at him; the pointing is usually done with the finger.[24]

The hilt statue depicts Arjuna who is in the condition of fightin and in love. Arjuna in this position is matching to the story of arjuna wiwaha or the marriage of Arjuna to a nymph Suprabha. In short, the story is as follows: Arjuna was in his meditation to ask the dewas a weapon. In the mean time the abode of the dewas was attacked by Niwatakaca, a demon who defeated the kahyangan. The dewas ask Arjuna to defeat the King Niwatakaca. With his weapon Arjuna was able to kill the King Niwatakaca. To greet this success, Arjuna was given a nymph suprabha by name, the most beautiful nymph in heaven. Arjuna and suprabha were married.

This story was very popular in the ancient times (up to the present) as it is depictes in the relief of the temple Jago, East Java (ca. 1.268 A.D.),[25] and nowadays to be the subject of painters in Bali.

The handle of k6ris has a tumpal (triangular) decoration filled with floral motif at the bottom part of it. The handles of kerises from European collection also have the tumpal decoration at the bottom of the hilt.[26] This decoration reminds us to the handles found in the Wonoboyo hoard.[27] Two handles of weapon were found among, the Wonoboyo hoard. Both were made of dark green semi precious stone flecked with white, wrapped all or in part with gold foil-and open work decorated with the tumpal motif and scrolls. One is of a long slightly curved shape with an octagonal core of semiprecious stone, a most entirely wrapped with open gold work, in various motifs, weighing 83 qrams of 22 carats. The other hilt is a shorter curved octagonal form, so that when a

Blade is put into one end it forms an L shape. On both ends are gold sheet ornaments. At the one end the gold ornament was cut and incised into triangular tumpals with floral motif. The hoard can be dated back at least 929 A.D. or the late 10th Century A.D. The decoration of the second hilt is made of gold sheet, in the shape of. A ring and triangular ornament with floral motif. Apart from those, some gold sheet ornaments in various sizes are found separately among the hoard. The tumpal ornaments were still exist in the hilt of kerises in the 16th century or six hundred years later. But as we know f rom the hilt of the sendai keris, keris in the MVK.Wien Inv. Nr. 91.919 a-b, Staatl. Museum Volkerkunde Dresden, Inv. Nr. 2894, National museum von Denmark, Kopenhagen Inv.Nr. Db. 27,[28] the decoration is applied on the hilt itself, not on a separate material.

The sheath consist of two parts, the top part of the sheath (the gambar) and the lower part of the sheath (the gandar). In the case of the keris of Sendai, the gambar and the gandar are made of one piece of wood that make it called warangka iras. Usually the gambar and the gandar are made separately, sometimes of two different woods. The shape of the gambar is quadrangular with elongated and pointed top corners. This shape is similar to that of the keris MVK Wien, Inv. Nr. 91.919.[29] it is in my opinion the early ladrang form. With the course of time, nowadays the ladrang is far more elegant as we can see in the photograph of keris in the Toyotamahime shrine.[30]

The warangka (sheath) is decorated with painting (warangka sunggingan). According to Mr. Sucipto, a wooden mask painter (tukang sungging) who lives in the city of solo or Surakarta, the recent traditional painting of mask is as follows: first of all the surface of the wood are painted with bakaran balung or fired animal bones. The fired animal bones are crusted and pounded and then mixed with binder made of the fruit of kepuh jangkang (Sterculia feotida L.) the fruits are dried and fired. The ash of the kepuh jangkang is mixed with water. This water is mixed with the bone powder and painted to the surface of the woed. It makes a natural wood filler. When it is dry, the surface of the wood is filled with sandpaper. In the old days the people used ampelas or rempelas leaf (Ficus ampelas Burm. F.). the colors are natural ones. The blue is gained from the indigo, white is form the limestone, yellow is from atal watu ( a mineral color imported from China), the vermilion red is from gincu (color stuff made a mercury, imported from China), etc. the colors are mixed with the binder with addition of fish glue (also imported from China).[31]

From the photograph, we can see that the paint on the gambar is somewhat paler compared to the paint of the gandar. This means that the painting at the gambar has a different way of painting. The greenish grey background is very much in use, while the dark blue and red colors are minimized. It is probably over painted, repainted or painted in layers, as a red color that is similar to that painted on the gandar is visible. The heart, which is in the shape of mango-fruit, is painted dark red color, different from the red mountains underneath. The shape of the heart painted on the gambar is a very naturalistic one. It another depiction that shows that Javanese craftsmen knew the human anatomy is the depiction of a relief depicted on the floor of the entrance gate of Candi Sukuh, on the western slope of mountains Lawu, Cental Java. The relief depicts male abd female organs, including the womb. The depiction of the womb is very accurate or realistic.[32]

The objects painted on one half of the gambar (the front gambar) is two arrows crossing through a red heart, two flying doves, and each one is biting the heart with their beaks. This painting is considered unusual for a Javanese or Balinese keris. According to Dietrich Drescher, this painting is a symbol of Christianity.[33] It is interesting to note that the paint on the doves coming off, it was, in my opinion, done to purpose, sice the paint came off as large as the figures, and following the outline of the doves. And so is the fact with the bodies of the arrows.[34]

It raises questions who repainted the gambar and when and what is the original painting look like. We hardly can answer these questions, as there is no evidence, except that the previous owner of the keris probably was a Christian. This opinion was based on the depiction of the heart with two arrows and doves. Who could be a Christian at that time (ca. late 16 th century AD)? Certainly not Javanese or a Balinese, but could be Spanish, a Portuguese or a Dutchman who gained the keris in Europe.[35] In the case of the the possibility (that the keris was gained in Bali, Indonesia), it is possible that the keris was given by a Balinese owner to a dearest male friend or guest who was probably a sailor from Europe.[36]

There is another possibility that the keris was presented to the guest in Bali. Before or after it was presented, the guest or the new owner wanted the picture on the gambar to be changed into a heart with crossed arrows. The picture was changed or repainted by the same craftsman who painted the warangka.[37]

To answer the question what was the original painting of the gambar, we can compare the keris in the Sendai City Museum to that now in the collection of MVK Wien, Inv.Nr. 91.919.[38] The painting of the gandar in this keris is of similar type as that of the Sendai keris, the alas-alasan pattern. The gambar of the keris in Wien has the main figure a mythical animal, the body is long and like that of a quadruped with bird’s claws and spurs, the head is a combination of tiger and an elephant. Floral motif and mountains surround the animal. On the other side of the gambar it is painted two quadupres that look like deer, standing facing each other as if they are in mating game.[39] Floral motif and mountains surround the two animals. The most interesting thing is that the two animals have feet with three fingers or like bird’s claw. The original paintings depicted at the gambar of the Sendai keris are, in my opinion, of similar idea, i.e. painting of mythical animals. The backside of the gambar in the Sendai keris is decorated with mythical animals although the paints are coming off. The rear legs of the guadruped depicted on the back side of the gambar are clearly having a bird’s claw. Another animal is depicted in red color, which is probably an elephant or other animal in sitting position.

One side of the gandar is fully decorated with painting from the top downward while at the other side is left unpainted. The volume of the painting is which is different from that of the keris in Wien collection [40], which is fully paited only at one side and at the upper half of the gandar only. Various kinds of animal are depicted the wordly animals and the mythical ones as well.

Talking about the style of the painting, the lines were executed freely and spontaneously. The painter painted the outline first, then the colors were added later. In depicting animals, the painter knew very well the characteristic of each animal, so that he could depict accurately. If we compare the painting of the Sendai keris to that of the Wien collection, we will find out that the technique of the brushstroke and executing outlines are the same. The outline of the black ink (dark blue) is very dominant in the paintings and the execution was spontaneous.[41]

The whole keris was the product of several craftsmen. The blade was done by the empu (blacksmith). The gold ornament on the blade was done by a goldsmith, the selut and the mendak were done by another goldsmith, the handle was done by a specialist, the sheath was done by a mranggi, decoration of the sheath was done by a tukang sungging (painter). In the case of the keris in the collection of Sendai City Museum, each craftsman was superior quality.[42]

The pattern of the decoration is called alas-alasan, meaning anything that connected to a forest. Therefore the objects of the painting are all sorts of animal that dwell in a forest in combination with mountains. The animals are painted in spaces bordered by lines. The mountains are painted in-groups of five or three, consisting of small ones.

The alas-alasan pattern, at present, is mostly depicted on the pendok (metal cover of the gandar). It is depicted with considerable changes. For example, the mountains at present are expressed with curve thick lines and there is no depiction of mythical animal. The present alas-alasan pattern usually has lar garuda (garuda’s wings) at the top of the pendok and sometimes on the lower parts, too.

Alas-alasan is one of several patterns still surviving to this day. The other patterns are the semen, kembang setaman, canden, tuwuhan, kilat bawana.[43] Among these patterns, the alas-alasan and the semen are the most popular. The two patterns are applied on the keris sheath (painted), the pendok, metal cover of the gandar (carving, chiseling), on cloth (hip cloth batik and gold painted on dodot and kemben). It is said that the alas-alasan and semen patterns are included in the eight forbidden patterns. These patterns are forbidden to the commoners, even within the royal family, some patterns were reserved for the crown prince, while only his less royal cousins could wear others.[44]


Anderson, Benedict, Mythology and the Tolerance of the Javanase, Ithaca, 1965.

Bernet Kempers, Dr. A.J., Ancient Indonesian Art, Harvard University Press, 1959.

Eggebrecht, Arne und Eva, Versunkene Konigreiche Indonesien, verlag Philip von zabern, Mainz, 1995.

Eiji, Nitta, The Kris deposited at Toyotamihe Shrine,Chiran and the Trade between Satsuma and Southeast Asia, in Bulletin Museum Chiran, no. 3, 1997.

Elliot, Inger McCabe, Batik, Fabled Cloth of Java, photographs Brian Brake, Contributors: Paramita Abdulrachman, Susan Blum, Iwan Tirta, design : Kiyoshi Kanai, Clarkson N. Potter Publisher, New York, 1984.

Gardner, G.B., Keris and Other Malay Weapons (with 91 illustrations), edited by B. Lumsden Milke, republished by EP Publishing Limited, 1973.

Hoop, van der, Indonesians Siermotieven, Jakarta, 1949.

Dr. Haryati Soebadio, (eds.), Indonesian Heritage, vol. 7 “Visual Art” , Hilda Soemantri, Volume editor, Archipelago Press, 1998.

Jasper, J.E. and Mas Pirngadie, De Indlandsche Kunstnijeverheid in Nederlandsch Indie II, de weefkunst, S`Gravenhage, 1912.

Jensen, Karsten Sejr, Rembrandst Kris, in the Journal of the Danish Arms & Armour Society, Vabenhistorik Tidsskrift, Bind 31. Nr. 8, November 1998.

Jessup, Hellen Ibbitson, Court Arts of Indonesia, The Asia Society, New York, in association with Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York, Jakarta, 1990.

Kieven, Lydia, Arjunas Askes. Ihre darstellung im Altjavanischen Arjunawiwaha und auf Ausgewahlten Ostjavanischen Reliefs. Schriftliche Arbeit in Rahmen der Magisterpufung and der Philosophischen Fakultat der Universitat zu koln, vorgelegt im Fach Malaiologie, September 1994.

Piaskowski, Jerzy and Alan Maisey, Technology of Early Indonesians Keris; The Resul of metallographic Examinations of Ganja`s (upper part of the Keris) Separately Forged. The Asia and Pasific Museum in Warsaw. 1995.

Queensland Art Gallery, Indonesian Gold, Treasures from the National Museum, Jakarta, Brisbane, 1999.

Ramseyer, Urs, The Art and Culture of Bali,University Press, Oxford, New York, Jakarta, 1977.

Sendai City Museum, Japanese Delegation for Europe in Keicho Period, with appendix : Japanese articles and paintings (in Japanese). Catalouge of Senday City Museum I, Date Masumune`s Mission to Rome in 1615; 1988.

Senday City Museum, The World and Japan-Tensho and Keicho Mission to Europe 16 th – 17 th Centuries (in Japanese) 1995.

Solyom, Garret and Bronwen, The World of Javanese Keris, an exhibitions at the East West Culture Learning Institute, East West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 10 to May 12, 1978.

Wahyono M, “Curio Notes”, Arts of Asia, July-August, 1973.

Wahyono M, The Gold of Wonoboyo, Preliminary Notes, in Old Javanese Gold (4 th – 15 th century) an Archaemotrical Approach, Wilhelmina H. Kal (ed.) Bulletin of the Royal Tropical Institute, No. 334, Culture History and Anthropology, KIT-Tropen Museum, Amsterdam, pp. 30 – 45, 1994.

Wahyono M, `Glass Painting` in Indonesian Heritage vol. 7, Visual Art, Hilda Sumantri (vol. Editor) pp. 42 – 43. Archipelago Press, Didier Millet Edition, 1998.

Wahyono M, Court and Culture in Queensland Art Gallery, Indonesians Gold, treasures from the National Museum, Jakarta. Pp. 112 –119. Brisbane, Australia, 1999.

[1] The word keris can be written as keris, kris, or kriss. Here, the terminology of a keris is mostly in Javanese, therefore we follow the Javanese way of writing.

[2] Ramseyer, 1977, p. 56, quoted by Wahyono Martowikrido, 1999, p. 117.

[3] Sasaki, 1998, p. 141.

[4] Senadai City Museum, 1995, p. 7.

[5] Mr. Tatsuro Hirai; who gained it from a Japanese publication, gave this information.

[6] Sasaki, 1998, p. 141.

[7] Sasaki, 1998, p. 141.

[8] For example if we compared the blade to some Balinese blades in the collection of the Museum Nasional, Jakarta, kept in the Ethnography Treasure Room. Cf. Coll. No. E 8771/12959 published in Hamzuri, 1983,pp. 56-57. Queensland Art Gallery, 1999, p. 123 (keris no. E 872/12953)

[9] Names of parts of the keris are in Javanese. Many of the Balinese terminology are still obscure to us, as very litle is known about it. Some Balinese terms of keris’ parts can be found in Ramseyer, 1977 and Wahyono Martowikrido, 1999.

[10] Krises no. E 791 from klungkung and E 956 from Badung, Bali, in the Ethnography Treasure Room of the national Museum, Jakarta, shows similarity of the grènèngs compared to that of the keris in the collection of the Sendai City Museum.

[11] The bronze gañja is now kept in the New Bronze Room, labeled as a bronze hammer, under the collection no. 1758 of the archaeological collection.

[12] An interview to a goldsmith in Bali ( Bpk Sutedja ) revealed that the glue was made out of a fruit of certain plant called saga telik (Abrusprecatorius L.). The inner side of the fruit, which is soft. Mixed with certain liquid, will make good glue, usually used by gold smith.

[13] Piaskowski, 1995, p. 15.

[14] If there is rio protection agaf st the damage, it will result a great


[15] Solyorn, 1978, p. 105.

[16] Cf. Dr. A.J. Bernet Kempers, Ancient .rndones7an Art, Harvard

University Press, 1959, plates 23,284, 297, 279, etc.

[17] Men sitting in this position are commonly depicted in the relieves of East Javanes temples, for example in Candi Jawi, Jago, Surawana and Penataran. Cf. Bernet Kempers, 1959, plate 300 frpm candi Surawana.

[18] Outer hip cloth for men is called kampuh in Balinese. Cf. Ramseyer, 1977, p.15.

[19] cf. Wahyono M. , 1973, Curio Notes, Arts Of Asia, July-August.

[20] cf. the collection of the National Museum, Jakarta, no. 21225, E 791, E 956, E 871/12959 (Hamzur 1983, p. 56), a keris sheath from Bali (Jessup, 1990 fig. 64, p. 93). To compare to a Javanese keris, cf. Eiji, Nitta 1997, p 1. According to Prof. Nitta Eiji, the keris came to Japan Sometime between 16th - 19th Century A.D. There was a Japanese from Satsuma who lived in Batavia in 1619 or afterwards. The keris went to Manila and from Manila it went to Kyushu, Japan. According to the author’s inspection especially on the shape of the gambar, the keris that is now kept in Toyotamahime shrine came from 18th- 19th Century A.D.

[21] cf. Drescher, Dietrich, 1999, abb. 46, a keris from East Java from 16th – 17th century A.D., a keris from Banten, West Java, from 16th century A.D., abb. 47, a keris from Blambangan, East Java, Ca. 1751.

[22] cf. Hamzuri, 1983 p. 56-57.

[23] In the Javanes tradition and Balinese as well, arjuna is depicted as having no moustache.

[24] Gardner, 1973, p. 59

[25] Bernet KeMpers, 1959, p. 84

[26] Drescher, Dietrich and Achim Weihrauch 1999, pp. 41, 43, 44, 415. In the kerises the tumpals are depicted in front back, and the sides of the bottom of the hilt, while as the hilt of Sendai keris, it is only, depicted in the back.

[27] cf. Wahyono Martowikrido, 1994, pp. 36-37.

[28] Dreschen, Dietrich, 1999, pp. 41,43,44,45..

[29] Ibid. Abb. 46 and 54.

[30] Eiji, 1997.

[31] An interview with Mr. Sucipto, a topeng painter who lives in the city of solo (surakarta). The technique of painting on wood whether on the warangka or on the mask is similar. Wahyono Martowikrido et. al., 1990. pp. 21-25.

[32] The real shape of human heart, one can see in this website hhtp// Dr. David Mitchell, an Australian Medical Doctor now resides in Melbourne, Australia, told the author that the depiction of the womb at candi Sukuh is very accurate or realistic

[33] he told this opinion to the author personally

[34] to rub or to scratch the paint on painting reminds me to the scratching of paint done on glass paintings entitled The Fighting of Kapten Tak against Untung Surapati.In this painting to show the running of the bullets of the guns one scratched the paint in front of each gun. Cf. Wahyono M., Glass Painting, in visual art, Indonesian Heritage Vol. 7, Archipelago Press 1998, p. 43.

[35] It is possible that the previous owner of the keris gained it in Europe, as in round the 16 th century many Europeans collected ethnographical objects from Indonesia. One of these is shown in a Rembrant’s painting entitled Samson and Delilah (1629), now in Staatliche Museum, Berlin. The weapon of Samson is keris, similar to that of the keris in the Sendai City Museum collection. (Jensen, 1998, p. 285)

[36] There is a custom up to the present that to express friendship and to pay respect to a male guest, one gives a keris. An ordinary keris is not given to a woman guest, except the small one called patrem, Up to recent time, the previous President of the Republic of Indonesia presented keris to his guests.

[37] This idea is gained from the fact that there is no individual difference in style between the arrows, heart and doves compared to the rest of the painting. Moreover the heart depicted on the gambar is naturalistic one as naturalistic as the womb depicted in Sukuh temple. In addition, the fact that the picture was scratched on purpose is similar as the one on painting on glass, which means that most probably an Indonesian did it.

[38] Drescher, Dietrich, 1999, abb. 46.

[39] Mythical quadrupeds are depicted at the mirror af silver plate from East Java, Indonesian Gold, treasures from the National Museum, Jakarta, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1999. p. 44.

[40] Drescher, Dietrich, 1999, ibid.

[41] Similarity in painting technique is also found in the paintings of the wayang beber, wayang painted on hand made papers said to be from the Majapahit era that are kept in Pacitan (East Java) and in a village in the southern part of Yogyakarta. Cf. Primadi Tabrani, Javanese wayang painting in Haryati Soebadio et. al (eds.) Indonesian Heritage no. 7, Visual Art (Hilda Sumantri, ed), Archipelago Press 1998, pp.36 – 37.

[42] Information about the specialization in the Javanese craftsmen was gained from an interview to Mr. Zaini, a silver carver from Yogyakarta who lives in Jakarta

[43] An interview to Mr. Zaini, a silver carver from Yogyakarta, who lives in Jakarta. Cf. Wahyono M., the Indonesian Kerises in the collection of Tokyo National Museum, will be published by the TNM.

[44] Elliot 1984, p. 68.Wahyono Martowikrido
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Old 21st September 2012, 04:38 PM   #41
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Wow, thank you very much for this most interesting research!
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Old 22nd September 2012, 02:07 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by Sajen
Wow, thank you very much for this most interesting research!
Amen! Thanks, Gustav!
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Old 23rd September 2012, 11:19 PM   #43
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You have done well Gustav.

Its amazing what a dedicated researcher can find if he really wants to.

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Old 14th July 2017, 06:50 AM   #44
Paul de Souza
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I was surfing the forum and revisited this thread.

Something just occurred to me about the keris.

I have always wondered what a keris from the Malacca Sultanate or from a period close to after its conquest after 1511 to 1600 would have looked like. I think perhaps in the Sendai keris, we could be looking at a keris from the Peninsular or East Sumatra or at least acquired from that area rather than from Java or Bali.

In 1618, Portugal and Spain were in a Union under one King. While they were separate kingdoms, I would expect that Spanish power in Manila would hold sway and have significant influence over Portuguese possessions in South East Asia.

The Portuguese were constantly in conflict with the Malay states in the Peninsular and Sumatra, and even sometimes Allies. It would not have been difficult for the Portuguese to acquire high status keris as war booty or gifts. The Spanish, through the Portuguese, would have easy access to such keris.

At the same time, the Dutch had made significant in-roads in the East Indies (Indonesia) and working very hard to exclude Catholic Spain and the Portuguese from the areas they controlled. By 1619, Batavia was established, which would mean that the Dutch were generally successful in their policy in controlling the coastal areas of Java. This would make access to Java by Spain or Portugal very difficult at the time the Japanese Envoy was in Manila.

But more intriguing for me is the Kastane. Most of Sri Lanka or Ceylon was a Portuguese colony from 1597 to 1658. So it is not too surprising for the Portuguese to have acquired Kastane like the one featured and again pass it on to the Spanish.

Thus seeing the two items together, hints strongly at a Portuguese origin. And if the Keris has a Portuguese origin, it is more likely that it would have come the Peninsular and East Sumatra rather than from Java and Bali.

If the gifts were given by King Philip in Spain, he would have acquired them in the first from the Portuguese rather than the Dutch, which would mean a keris from the Peninsular / East Sumatra. Theoretically, Malacca and Ceylon were the Spanish King's dominions and hence logical to have items from these areas in his collection.

If the Japanese envoy acquired it when he was in Manila, the possibility of a Portuguese origin is even stronger given the enmity between the Dutch and Spanish and the difficulty in accessing Dutch controlled areas in Java.

So perhaps we are looking at a "Peninsular" keris instead.

If it is Peninsular, it would mean that keris form and aesthetics were fairly uniform in the Malay archipelago at that time, following closely precepts set in Java and Bali; we can't help say it is Javanese or Balinese in form at first look. So perhaps the diversification of the keris into distinct regional forms that we know today came much later in the 18th century and keris in the 17th century and earlier were all Javanese/Balinese in form.

Just a thought.
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