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Old 8th January 2017, 01:42 PM   #1
Seerp Visser
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Default 100 years after Groneman

A remarkable find.

Since some years i study the forging of the keris and I focus on the forging of five keris by the empu Karja di Kromo in Yogjakarta in 1904.

Dr. Groneman a local Dutch physician attended a major part of the forging work on those five keris and wrote an article about it. This article was published in a leading scientific magazine, in two parts, 1910 and 1913.
Dr. Groneman was very committed with art in Java and focused in the last years of his life at the forging of the keris. He tried to stop the decline of the forging and promoted the keris to the Dutch by trying to interest them to buy a keris as piece of art. He realized orders for a number of keris and had them forged by some empu’s in and around Yogjakarta.

In the article the forging of the keris is described giving the impression that Groneman attended the complete forging. However in the published article some parts are missing.
It is not sure if Dr. Groneman realized that some of the forging work was missing or perhaps, he did not want to disclose all of the work in too much detail.
In his article he keeps track of the number of hours worked by the empu, and his helpers, and calculates the hourly income for the family of the empu, dividing the price of the keris by the hours worked.
This gives the impression that Dr. Groneman was not aware of the parts of the work not showed to him and so not published too.

Dr. Groneman introduced the use of pure nickel as pamor material, arranged tests and introduced the use of thin leaves of pure nickel he had imported from friends in Europe.
To his ideas the empu’s were using meteoritic iron as sole pamor material for more important keris. He tried to introduce the nickel blades to replace the very rare and expensive Prambanam meteoritic iron.
The empu could save money and the future of the keris should be saved by using the nickel instead of the meteoritic iron.

The article Dr. Groneman wrote was for me the base of my studies. I started my studies in 2011 about 100 years after Dr Groneman passed away (1912).

In the article the forging of some pamor designs is described, information not easy to find elsewhere.
By forging a pamor design in a keris it is important to forge the keris to certain predefined dimensions. Forging a keris with smaller dimensions will result in a finer drawing of the pamor lines and also a larger pattern will appear forging the keris wider or longer.
So it is important to know the right dimensions of a keris before forging.
Dr. Groneman mentions in his article quite rough the size of the keris by comparing the dimensions with the size of the pages of the magazine. This was quite vague, so I looked around in the Netherlands to find a “Groneman” keris by collectors and some museums. I found a few and was able to measure them. However I did not find one of the five keris described in the first part of the article of Dr. Groneman.

So I tried to follow a lead to the Austrian Ethnologist Dr. Franz Heger who, as described in the article, had ordered the five keris and had paid for them.
I found out that the collection of Dr. Heger became part of a royal museum in Austria. The museum was eliminated and the collection was divided between two Austrian museums in a later time. The part of the collection with the five keris could possibly have been transferred to the collection of the Welt Museum in Vienna.

After some communication the museum was so friendly to search for me between the about 200 keris they have in their collection and at last and to my big surprise they came up with some very small and low quality photographs of keris that looked very much alike the original five keris.
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Old 8th January 2017, 01:44 PM   #2
Seerp Visser
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I was very pleased when they invited me to have a look at the keris in real, especially since the museum is closed for a long period due to restoration work. I was allowed to measure and weigh the five keris. So I went to Vienna and found the famous five keris as they were taken from Yogjakarta.
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Old 8th January 2017, 01:50 PM   #3
Seerp Visser
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No maintenance was done at all. They were like new, but looked very bad. One of the blades was damaged by taking a small piece for examination purposes.

Below I show a comparison of a photograph in the article of Dr. Groneman and a photograph of the same keris in the museum.
The left side of the picture shows the photograph of the keris in the article of Dr. Groneman in 1904.
At the right a photograph of the keris in the collection of the Weltmuseum.
The quality of both photographs is bad but it is still possible to compare the pamor and confirm that it is the same keris.

I hope the museum will have them well maintained and show them to the public when they reopen.
For us it will be very interesting to pay these historical famous keris a visit.

We may be very happy that 100 years after the dead of Dr. Groneman these five famous keris come alive again.
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Old 8th January 2017, 02:11 PM   #4
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A remarkable find indeed. Thank you very much for sharing this with us Seerp. I really appreciate it.
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Old 8th January 2017, 02:32 PM   #5
F. de Luzon
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Impressive! Looks like you had quite an adventure. Congratulations on your discovery!
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Old 8th January 2017, 06:14 PM   #6
A. G. Maisey
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Wonderful work Seerp.

I think I commented on the missing information from Groneman a few years ago, somebody who keeps track of posts to this Forum may be able to identify that post. I rather feel that Karja di Kromo himself probably excluded Groneman from the crucial sessions of work.

In recent times Empu Pauzan Pusposukadgo did a similar thing by publishing incomplete information in a booklet he published on how to make keris.

But this is history.

Your work in locating these keris is truly commendable.

Congratulations on a job well done.
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Old 8th January 2017, 06:36 PM   #7
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Some impressive detective work indeed. I wonder though if this museum realizes the historical import of these keris in the same manner that we involved in the keris world do. I would hate to see them buried in their vaults when they re-open. Museums are also notorious for not giving proper care and maintenance to keris.
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Old 8th January 2017, 11:57 PM   #8
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Great work Seerp, thank you!
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Old 11th January 2017, 09:29 PM   #9
Paul Duffy
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Seerp, I add my congratulations & thanks for rediscovering these pieces.
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