Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > Keris Warung Kopi
User Name
Password
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 30th October 2017, 10:00 AM   #1
F. de Luzon
Member
 
F. de Luzon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 149
Default Keris with Ivory, Silver and Horn

Hello! This is my keris. The blade is 31 cm long and 1.5 cm wide at the center. The hilt is some kind of ivory, the hilt cup and pendok are made of silver, and the sampir and buntut are made of horn. Is it Sumatran? Also, is it possible to tell its age based on the features?

According to the dealer, it was likely brought to the US at the turn of the 20th century.

Your insights would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Kind regards,

Fernando
Attached Images
       

Last edited by F. de Luzon : 30th October 2017 at 01:20 PM. Reason: Added dimensions, clarity
F. de Luzon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th October 2017, 01:43 PM   #2
kai
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,868
Post

Hello Fernando,

Quote:
Is it Sumatran? Also, is it possible to tell its age based on the features?
<snip>
According to the dealer, it was likely brought to the US at the turn of the 20th century.

Any more concrete evidence on its provenance in the US?
It's always tough to evaluate bits of info given by (many) dealers...


Quote:
The blade is 31 cm long and 1.5 cm wide at the centre

This Bangkinang blade does look Sumatran, indeed. It has lost too many details to allow for a more critical appraisal though. If it has been cared for in a western collection for over 100 years, the blade could easily be from the 18th century; blades that came out of Indonesia more recently, can exhibit similar erosion and be much younger (including artificially aged new blades).


Quote:
The hilt is some kind of ivory

The hilt clearly is from Hippo ivory. The style is typical for south(west)ern Sulawesi ("Bugis"); it is also not rarely found with keris from several Sumatran regions. I know of no data whether these got crafted locally or traded from Sulawesi - probably a moot point with so many Bugis/Makassar expats and traders living there and heavily influencing the whole region.


Quote:
the hilt cup and pendok are made of silver

Both appear to be too wide: The pendokok/selut clearly is too large and was not crafted for this hilt; IMHO it also covers too much of the bungkul (rounded base of the hilt). An easy fix would be to ask a silversmith to turn the plain rim over (to the inside - this will make the rim less tall and diameter more narrow). It might be a shame to change a genuine pendokok if it really was antique; however, it does not appear to be a high-end example. The ensemble would look much better IMVHO...

In a similar vein, the upper part of the pendok appears to have a too wide opening for the base of the sampir and both probably were not crafted to suit each other.


Quote:
the sampir and buntut are made of horn

I've seen similar buntut examples from the region. The sampir seems to have some age which could be consistent with it being antique; not surprisingly, it seems to be considerably younger than the blade. The fit is not terribly good - can you discern any hints that it wasn't made for this blade (wear, movement, etc.)?


I'm not convinced that this whole ensemble is original - however, keris bits and pieces have been swapped around for ages, especially on Sumatra with its many neighbouring cultures. Anyway, with a little effort, it probably can gain an even nicer look though!

Regards,
Kai
kai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th October 2017, 05:54 PM   #3
F. de Luzon
Member
 
F. de Luzon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 149
Default

Thank you for your insights, Kai!

The sampir is currently detached which may account for the poor fit of the pendok in the picture. Also, the sampir seems to have been made for the keris for it follows the profile of the ganja and there is no movement when sheathed.

I'll put a little Elmer's glue on the sampir and post pictures soon.

Kind regards,

Fernando

Btw, I had the same impression of the pendokok when I saw it in pictures however, it really looks so much better in person.
F. de Luzon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th October 2017, 06:54 PM   #4
David
Keris forum moderator
 
David's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: The Great Midwest
Posts: 5,283
Default

I mostly agree with Kai on his assessment here. I think that you are probably right about the sarong having a better look once you have re-glued it together.
The blade seems to be at least 19th century and could very well be older.
As for the pendokok, while it might appear to be of a better quality in person it is still too large for this particular hilt and looks a bit odd. I would not, however, have a silversmith mess with it. Better, i believe, to simply find a new silver pendokok of good quality that fits properly.
David is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th October 2017, 11:29 PM   #5
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 4,542
Default

All collectors love perfection.

I think that is probably a reasonably correct comment. It doesn't only apply to keris, nor only to edged weapons in general, but to all sorts of collectables --- coins, sea shells, paper weights --- and so on.

But in the case of keris, I am not at all certain that perfection of fit and finish is really a desirable objective. Many years ago I used to be certain that every keris should be a perfect example of fit & finish, and that art should shine through at all costs.

Maybe sometimes this might be desirable. Maybe. But many years of close observation of keris wear and use in keris bearing societies has tended to modify the obsessions of my early collecting years so that I now feel that if a complete keris has been a coherent entity for a reasonably long period of time, it is probably a more sympathetic approach to leave as found and not impose my ideas upon the ideas of previous owners.

Of course, this approach should not be maintained where a keris is found in less than acceptable condition, the first consideration should always be for long term conservation.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st October 2017, 01:34 PM   #6
kai
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,868
Post

Hello Fernando,

Quote:
The sampir is currently detached which may account for the poor fit of the pendok in the picture.

The opening seems too wide (and there also is an unusual "step" between the 2 parts of the pendok) - still, this might either point towards recycling of materials (which always was common practise) or less-than-perfect fitting (also not unheard of though more common with sub-average pieces).


Quote:
Also, the sampir seems to have been made for the keris for it follows the profile of the ganja and there is no movement when sheathed.

The gonjo sinks in too deeply for a keris dressed in general Malay style and the pretty "steep" angle it sits inside also makes me believe the sampir may not have been carved for this blade. Of course, this may also result from the loose sampir...


Quote:
Btw, I had the same impression of the pendokok when I saw it in pictures however, it really looks so much better in person.

I'm glad to hear that! If it really is old, it certainly should not be messed with.

Regards,
Kai
kai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st October 2017, 01:39 PM   #7
kai
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,868
Lightbulb

Hello David,

Quote:
As for the pendokok, while it might appear to be of a better quality in person it is still too large for this particular hilt and looks a bit odd. I would not, however, have a silversmith mess with it. Better, i believe, to simply find a new silver pendokok of good quality that fits properly.

Antique quality pendokok from silver are tough to find! It may be a better strategy to opt for a brass/bronze pendokok of generic Bugis style - should be much easier to find in the correct size...

Regards,
Kai
kai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st October 2017, 02:18 PM   #8
kai
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,868
Thumbs up

Hello Alan,

Quote:
All collectors love perfection.

I think that is probably a reasonably correct comment. It doesn't only apply to keris, nor only to edged weapons in general, but to all sorts of collectables --- coins, sea shells, paper weights --- and so on.

But in the case of keris, I am not at all certain that perfection of fit and finish is really a desirable objective. Many years ago I used to be certain that every keris should be a perfect example of fit & finish, and that art should shine through at all costs.

Maybe sometimes this might be desirable. Maybe. But many years of close observation of keris wear and use in keris bearing societies has tended to modify the obsessions of my early collecting years so that I now feel that if a complete keris has been a coherent entity for a reasonably long period of time, it is probably a more sympathetic approach to leave as found and not impose my ideas upon the ideas of previous owners.

Thanks Alan, for emphasising the museum approach!

I agree that keris which have a high chance to represent honest examples of what traditional owners carried in the 19th century or earlier should not be messed with nor "improved" cosmetically unless longterm conservation is compromised! Sorrily, keris in this category are getting fewer and fewer every day due to well-intentioned "upgrading," matters of taste, or mere marketing tricks.

I was hoping for some background info on provenance and agree that this keris should be kept intact if it can be verified (or, at least, made plausible) that this ensemble is antique (or close)...


OTOH, if the pendokok can be shown to be recent (like post-independence), I'd have no qualms to modify (or change) it: At the lower end of quality there may be an endless mix'n'match approach without hope for any traditional rules. However, status pieces usually conform to local aesthetics. I'm sure you can think of keris Jawa assembled from perfectly legitimate parts which would be considered to be an eye sore and unacceptable to wear in public (possibly a Solo ukiran with Yogya wronko or vice versa). I believe this pendokok to belong to a similar category and, thus, would consider exchanging it unless reasonable provenance can be established. If opting for changing it, the current one should still be kept with the keris for future reference, indeed!

Regards,
Kai
kai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st October 2017, 02:59 PM   #9
David
Keris forum moderator
 
David's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: The Great Midwest
Posts: 5,283
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
Hello David,


Antique quality pendokok from silver are tough to find! It may be a better strategy to opt for a brass/bronze pendokok of generic Bugis style - should be much easier to find in the correct size...

Regards,
Kai

Kai, i never said anything about replacing it with an antique quality silver pendokok. But one can find new ones of good quality fairly easily i believe.
David is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st October 2017, 07:20 PM   #10
kai
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,868
Default

True, David, if the current one proved to be not that old it wouldn't hurt to exchange it with a nicely fitting newer one...

Regards,
Kai
kai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st October 2017, 07:54 PM   #11
David
Keris forum moderator
 
David's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: The Great Midwest
Posts: 5,283
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
True, David, if the current one proved to be not that old it wouldn't hurt to exchange it with a nicely fitting newer one...

Regards,
Kai

Well, IMHO it wouldn't hurt either way. I'm not saying to throw the present pendokok away. Swapping out a better fitted piece does not do any damage to the ensemble in any way. If one feels at a later date that the "original" pendokok was more appropriate it can always be put back in place.
David is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st October 2017, 10:30 PM   #12
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 4,542
Default

I'll try not to make this post too long, because in fact, in respect of this matter of "correct dress", there is material sufficient for a book, and even to compress it I could very easily run to several thousand words.

Put as concisely as I am able, it comes down to this:-

in a situation where an established dress code dictates that a particular form of keris must be worn, we can expect to see keris that have been prepared for use in that particular situation to be presented in accordance with the requirements of the applicable dress code.

In all other situations we can expect to see greater and lesser variation from the situational norm.

To expand upon the above just minimally:-

in Jawa, in respect of keris worn as an item of dress by a member of a defined group within Javanese society, we can expect to see keris that conform to the defined dress rules within that defined group.

However, for all other keris that exist within Javanese society we can expect to find dress variation, and for that matter, blade variation, that does not conform to the requirements of any defined societal group.

Exactly the same situation applies in Bali, and by all accounts has also applied in times past.

I do not have personal experience of what the situation is in keris bearing societies other than those I have already mentioned, but based upon examples of keris with good provenance that I have seen, and which have come from a number of other locations in past times, I am of the opinion that for the vast bulk of ordinary people who lived in other keris bearing societies a keris in any form of dress was still a keris and would be worn and used as a keris.

Apart from the established fact of variance in keris dress that is attributable to societal norms and to personal non-conformity, there are other very major reasons for keris dress being somewhat other than might be expected by some collectors.

There is the fact that all craftsmen are not equal. Not every craftsman is capable of producing an item of keris dress that perfectly reflects the ideal standard --- and this only addresses the case where craftsmen have been employed to produce keris dress on an individual basis, by this I mean that a keris blade has been given to a m'ranggi and he has been requested to dress it in accordance with defined requirements. By far the greater number of keris are dressed in items which have been pre-produced, rather than made to order.

The scabbards, scabbard covers (pendoks), hilts that are used to dress keris are made as items for sale in the market place and are bought by craftsmen and private people alike and then fitted to a keris as required. A skilled craftsman will do a skilful job, a ham-handed craftsman will do a less skillful job, most non-craftsmen do appalling jobs.

In a case where a craftsman has not been employed to produce the item of dress, but it has been produced by the owner of the keris, who might be a farmer, or a clerk, or a factory worker, then the degree of non-compliance with a desired standard can be even greater.

Then there is the fact that the materials used to produce keris scabbards and hilts are natural materials such as wood or horn. Modern custom knife-makers will seldom guarantee a natural material. Why? Because wood, horn & etc moves and cracks. Natural materials can both contract and expand, and something that is a perfect fit today can be a less than perfect fit next month.

The passage of time exacerbates the inherent qualities of natural materials. Over a lengthy period of time a wooden scabbard can wear so much that a blade that was a tight fit when the scabbard was new becomes a loose --- sometimes very loose --- fit when the scabbard is older. This is extremely common. In Jawa this problem is routinely remedied by taking up the slackness in fit with infills of one material or another to bring the fit back to a nice close fit again. This routine keris maintenance is then regarded by knowledgeable collectors outside the society as sure evidence that "the wrongko is not original to the blade". Ah, yes, of course.

I have written more than enough for a post to this discussion. I doubt that I have written anything above that is not common knowledge to anybody who has even minimal experience in the study of the keris, but sometimes we do forget to think about these things before we pontificate upon them.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st November 2017, 03:21 PM   #13
F. de Luzon
Member
 
F. de Luzon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 149
Default

Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate the time you spared to share your observations and insights. I learned some more about the keris and culture from the discussion.

For now, I intend to leave this keris as found. It is unfortunate that there is little information on its provenance. I purchased it from a Massachusetts based antique dealer who said that, "it came out of a lot of knives with the majority of them being from the Philippines and came back from the Philippine American War of 1899-1902." I asked for additional information but have not received a reply.

Anyway, below are additional pictures. The first shows details of the sheath construction. In the second, I highlighted matching details of the upper and lower parts of the the pendok. The third and fourth are just additional front and back views. The last is a photo of a print showing a similar sheath (back view).

Kind regards to all!

Fernando
Attached Images
     

Last edited by F. de Luzon : 2nd November 2017 at 02:02 AM.
F. de Luzon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st November 2017, 04:57 PM   #14
David
Keris forum moderator
 
David's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: The Great Midwest
Posts: 5,283
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by F. de Luzon
For now, I intend to leave this keris as found.

Frankly Fernando, if it were mine i would probably take the same path, even if i agree with Kai that the pendokok does not quite fit the hilt properly. As Alan points out, we do not live in a world of perfection. If it could be shown through provenance that this was a recent addition by the dealer i might think differently, but in the absence of further information i believe you have a reasonably nice example of an old Sumatran Anak Alang (or Bahari if it is actually shorter than i perceive).
David is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th November 2017, 04:55 AM   #15
F. de Luzon
Member
 
F. de Luzon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 149
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Frankly Fernando, if it were mine i would probably take the same path, even if i agree with Kai that the pendokok does not quite fit the hilt properly. As Alan points out, we do not live in a world of perfection. If it could be shown through provenance that this was a recent addition by the dealer i might think differently, but in the absence of further information i believe you have a reasonably nice example of an old Sumatran Anak Alang (or Bahari if it is actually shorter than i perceive).



Thanks David!

Fernando
F. de Luzon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th November 2017, 04:58 AM   #16
F. de Luzon
Member
 
F. de Luzon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 149
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
It has lost too many details to allow for a more critical appraisal though. If it has been cared for in a western collection for over 100 years, the blade could easily be from the 18th century; blades that came out of Indonesia more recently, can exhibit similar erosion and be much younger (including artificially aged new blades).


Hello Kai,

Out of curiosity, is there a way to tell if a keris blade has been artificially aged?

Kind regards,

Fernando
F. de Luzon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th November 2017, 10:06 AM   #17
Jean
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,009
Default

Hello Fernando,
I don't think that your blade was artificially aged but it looks older than the dress (pendok and pendokok especially).
I attach a pic of a similar kris from my collection bought in Medan (North Sumatra) in 1996 and originally fitted with an ivory Bugis hilt.
Regards
Attached Images
 
Jean is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th November 2017, 04:15 PM   #18
David
Keris forum moderator
 
David's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: The Great Midwest
Posts: 5,283
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by F. de Luzon
Out of curiosity, is there a way to tell if a keris blade has been artificially aged?

I agree with Josť. I have no suspicions that your keris was artificially aged. Often it can be obvious based on the look of the wear patterns. There might be severe pitting, but edges remain unusually sharp or some other unusual contradiction in appearance. When you see blades like these they will automatically look suspicious. But i have heard of blades where the process is done well enough to at least fool a well trained Keris Ahli for a time.
It should also be noted that artificial keris aging isn't always done to fool. Within certain collecting circles (this probably only applies to Javanese keris) an aged look is the preferred look so new blades will receive this process with the buyer knowing that the keris is new. It is only when such blades are presented as antique that we have a problem.
David is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th November 2017, 03:20 PM   #19
F. de Luzon
Member
 
F. de Luzon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 149
Default

Hello Jean and David,

Your insights are very reassuring. Thank you very much!

Jean, that kris is very nice.

Kind regards,

Fernando
F. de Luzon is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



All times are GMT. The time now is 03:36 AM.


Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.