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Old 23rd June 2016, 01:45 AM   #1
Aslan Paladin
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Default Ivory Hilt Barong from Borneo

This elegant ivory hilt barong was sold recently in an on line action (I didn't win it unfortunately ) and was described as being from Borneo. I have seen warrior-level barongs from Borneo but not a nobility type like this so I don't know if this is correct or wrongly attributed.
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Old 23rd June 2016, 12:19 PM   #2
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I would say yes it is from Borneo, especially based on the larger and thicker scabbard common to that region. There are Moros on Borneo on the province of Sabah.

Not too long ago, the Philippine Moros made a claim that Sabah belonged to them (actually they always claimed this in the name of the Sultanate of Sulu).

I wish I had the funds for this unusual version.............
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Old 23rd June 2016, 12:44 PM   #3
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What a missed opportunity to own such a rare item then (sigh). Hopefully a forum member got it and would post pictures. Have you seen any similar barungs from Borneo before?
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Old 24th June 2016, 03:07 AM   #4
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Yes I have seen pictures of them. Here are some threads addressing this issue:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...t=borneo+barong

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...t=borneo+barong
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Old 24th June 2016, 03:08 AM   #5
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Also here is an old example of a Borneo barong from www.mytribalworld.com :
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Old 24th June 2016, 04:04 AM   #6
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I mean ceremonial type barungs made with ivory or even silver hilts from Borneo. Sorry if I didn't make myself clear about that. I guess the scabbard of the ivory barung does clearly show the characteristic Borneo style, albeit in an appropriately more ornate style befitting the high status of the sword. Is it safe to say as well that the silver fittings of the hilt consists of motifs (geometric pattern, cut-outs or openwork on the silver, and thick silver braid) that is characteristic of Borneo origin?
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Old 24th June 2016, 02:41 PM   #7
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Ah..........I misunderstood.

I have to admit, I have not seen a datu class Borneo barong before.

So........perhaps the motifs on this barong may be typical of Borneo datu barongs, although of course one example does not make a pattern.

That being said, notice at the top of the pommel where the cut out silver is - that is closer to classic Moro floral motif.
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Old 24th June 2016, 08:36 PM   #8
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Yup, I see what you mean, the stylised vegetal Moro form which is in stark contrast with the more realistic depiction like that of Borneo, Sumatra or even Java. Hopefully more datu class barungs from Borneo will turn up in the future so that we can establish if there is indeed a defining characteristic to them aside from the scabbard style.
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Old 25th June 2016, 03:52 PM   #9
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See revised post below.
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Old 25th June 2016, 03:59 PM   #10
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To my eye the silver work on the pommel is not ALL necessarily born with it originally. I question most especially the mid-section silver band. The upper band appears to hide the joint where the pommel is attached. Among most Moro pieces this is done with ivory or horn inserts that are cut to allow for the curvature towards the pommel.

The ferrule, or lower bolster, is not the typical Moro type, that is for sure. I do worry a little bit about what I see as a residue(glue??) stain on it, and wonder if it was a working life or later replacement.

Most worrisome is the center piece. The band looks "machined" to me. Note the lower portion of it and you can see damage to the ivory and uncharacteristic staining, both above and below the band. Was this piece done to hide a broken ivory grip or a damaged one? Note also the staining or spill-over of some sort of residue(again...glue???) between the silver band and the silver cording at the lower portion of the mid section. Note, too, that the silver motifs are not a perfect match on any of the three silver bands, with the center one being most different. Look at the lines and how they are chiseled and how perfect they are... and aren't.

Also note the holes to the back of the grip...was something else there?...perhaps an open work band pinned on like the top one?? Is this a replacement for it? If so, poorly done, indeed.

Regarding the pommel, I would say it had at least been shortened(at the top) and am not sure it is not altogether a restoration considering the coloring of the top portion of it.

No doubt this is a lovely piece, but I think it has seen quite a bit of working life, or later, restoration...or perhaps a combination of the two. I wonder if the top(silver pins still present) and bottom silver bands are original, and the middle one later. Those two come the closest to matching and showing the same type of work.

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Old 25th June 2016, 08:22 PM   #11
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It is possible that there have been restorations on this piece as you have pointed out. By the way there were two other swords in the same auction which I believe are Moro kris swords that have been altered by being fitted with Balinese keris hilts. I just don't know if there is some connection.
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Old 25th June 2016, 10:33 PM   #12
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Oh I totally agree with you Charles. I too would say that all of the mounts were made more recently.

Looking at the way the flat bands were made, they were done in thicker silver, and not traditionally hand made. However, the ferrule looks more hand made and may be original.

I would also say the same of the woven silver bands. Although they are twisted silver, Sulu region Moros had a specialty of interweaving the twisted wire, using a smaller wire thickness.

Charles I also see your point regarding the terminal tail - looks cut off.
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Old 25th June 2016, 10:47 PM   #13
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Aslan Paladin, regarding your question of the Moro blades with Bali hilts.

I would submit that later owners who were world travelers or even un-educated collectors bought these Balinese keris hilts (which would more easily fit a Moro tang than a Javanese keris hilt) and mated them to Moro blades.

There are even some collectors (and dealers) who don't bother to make a difference between Indonesian keris and Moro kris (and Malay sundang).
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Old 26th June 2016, 01:10 AM   #14
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I HAD THE SAME FEELINGS ABOUT SEVERAL ITEMS IN THIS AUCTION AND REFRAINED FROM BIDDING ON SOME ITEMS AS A RESULT. THE BORNEO BARONG WAS ONE OF THOSE ITEMS. AESTHETICALLY IT IS QUITE PLEASING TO THE EYE AND UNIQUE IN MY EXPERIENCE BUT SOMETHING JUST DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT. WAS IT MADE AND USED IN THE MORO OR DAYAK CULTURE OR A FANCY INTERPRETATION WITH DIFFERENT CULTURES COMBINED AS IN THE BALI-MORO KRIS AND PERHAPS PUT TOGETHER IN SOME OTHER COUNTRY BY CRAFTSMEN WHO WERE NEITHER DAYAK OR MORO. I DO LIKE THE LOOK OF THE BARONG AND THE TWO MORO-BALI KRIS BUT THEY MAY BE SAID TO BE PUT TOGETHER, FANTASY OR ARTISTIC LICENCE ITEMS. I DID WIN TWO ITEMS IN THIS AUCTION SO WILL AT LEAST BE ABLE TO JUDGE THEM WHEN THEY ARRIVE AND PERHAPS THEY MAY HAVE COME FROM THE SAME COLLECTIONS .
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Old 26th June 2016, 06:53 AM   #15
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Although inappropriately altered, I must admit the Moro Kris saber blade is absolutely stunning with the twist core pattern and the exquisite fullering. Just imagine what it could have looked like with its original hilt.
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Old 26th June 2016, 02:02 PM   #16
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That twist core Kris blade is beautiful. An unusual blade profile with a twist core makes it a rare variant, in my opinion. It would be hard to find a proper hilt for it.
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Old 26th June 2016, 09:15 PM   #17
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I thought about going for that unusual kris blade just for the blade, but alas no money at present...
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Old 26th June 2016, 10:07 PM   #18
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Me too, I wanted to go after it for the blade alone but the winning bid was just too much to overcome.
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