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Old 30th November 2012, 04:52 AM   #1
David
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Default Wallace Collection Keris

Anyone have any more info on this unusual keris in the Wallace Collection in London? Has some rather unfamiliar elements for me.
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Old 30th November 2012, 12:16 PM   #2
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David,
I believe this piece to be Wallace Collection inventory # 1741 it is described as follows;

1741 Dagger (Kris). The hilt is fashioned of blued steel with a grooved hatched and key pattern design chased and inlaid with gold. The blade, 10 1/4 in. long, is of spatular form, widening towards the hilt, where the outline is moulded and the surface russeted, with a design of conventional flowers engraved and thickly plated with gold. This same decoration runs down the centre of the blade.
Blade, Malay, 17th century. Hilt of French workmanship adapted from another weapon. Early 18th century.

The above is the description from the Wallace Collection. Interesting combination of assets.
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Old 30th November 2012, 12:29 PM   #3
Jussi M.
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Kukri meets keris...
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Old 30th November 2012, 01:21 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Naga Sasra
Hilt of French workmanship adapted from another weapon. Early 18th century.
Thanks...that explains most of my confusion...
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Old 30th November 2012, 10:09 PM   #5
A. G. Maisey
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Good to to see you posting here again, Erik.

It explains the hilt, certainly, but it does not explain the blade.

In my opinion this blade is not of Malay manufacture.

The British in the colonial days were wont dub just about all SE Asians as "Malay", but this blade is not Indonesian either --- or as it was back then from the Dutch East Indies.

The blade angle, pawakan, the decline of the edges to the point, the gold work, none of these things look like a true keris. None of them. This weapon simply does not look like any keris I've ever seen. Yes, it has some keris-like features, but that's where it stops.

I rather feel that this blade might have been made in India to the order of a Britain, or European.
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Old 30th November 2012, 10:13 PM   #6
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Thanks for your input Alan. Yes, my confusion did not stop at the hilt. Glad you know that i may have good reason being confused.
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Old 1st December 2012, 03:46 AM   #7
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Very helpful Alan and Erik, thank you.

I had always wondered about this particular piece for years.

Mystery solved.
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Old 1st December 2012, 02:54 PM   #8
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I feel, we should study a little bit more this fascinating weapon.

At first it seems to be clear, that what we see isn't the original state. The blade has been sharpened, very possibly losing some length and width (judging from the gold work), yet the most serious loss is the front Pudak Sategal. Just imagine it, and there will be no Kukri anymore in this picture.

This happens in a region where people do appreciate a sharp cutting edge and is not unusual regarding Keris, see the other example. The loss of material can be pretty substancial.

Interesting for me regarding ornamentics of this weapon is the way two kinds of popular ornaments are united. The first one is the natural plant ornament in the central panel (on a blade without sogokan, that meens, the "source" of the plant is visible), feature the weapon from Wallace collection shares with the other Keris depicted in this post.

The second kind of ornamentics is the sequence of curls, on Wallace weapon they are found on edges till the end of the remaining Pudak Sategal and on Gonjo. I feel, this ornament possibly derived from both DongSon spiral ornaments and more recent Chinese Ming influences.

I don't have any knowledge about Indian ornaments, so I don't know, if one or both of these ornaments are found on Indian weapons, yet both of them are found on Indonesian/Malay Keris, and there are big differences in how they are executed on different Keris. Of course, these are just ornaments.
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Old 1st December 2012, 03:27 PM   #9
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Here are the pictures of different Keris with the second kind of ornament, the sequences of curls. Interesting fact is, on gonjo of Wallace weapon the sides are covered with the curling ornament, yet the back of Gonjo seems to have the naturalistic plant ornament on it.
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Old 1st December 2012, 03:38 PM   #10
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Thanks Gustav...i don't believe this mystery has been solved quite yet..
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Old 1st December 2012, 04:07 PM   #11
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And one more post regarding Gonjo and Ricikan:

Gonjo seems to be of the symmetrical type, like on Dhapur Sepang. The striking and "foreign" element seems to be the exagerated first element of Ron Dha Nunut. Yet the whole group of three elements of Ron Dha Nunut do appear on some old blades - an alternative to "classical" Ron Dha Nunut, with Dha. I have posted also a picture of the Megantoro from Bezemer's book. Here are only two elements on Ron Dha Nunut, exagerated is the second one. So I think, there is some possible space we should left for anomalies in Keris culture, and this blade clearly is one.
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Old 1st December 2012, 11:55 PM   #12
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Gustav, I'm not quite sure what you are setting forth here.

Are you saying that in your opinion this weapon does originate from a keris bearing culture, and is in fact just a variation of keris style?

I cannot see any evidence that this keris is not in its original state, based upon what I can see in the photos this keris appears to have been made with these blade lines.

The gonjo and sorsoran area have a Javanese feeling to them, so I am looking at this keris as if it were Javanese/Balinese.

To my eye there are three things that stand out as being non-typical of a keris that bears the stylistic elements that this one does. Firstly the really obvious abnormality is the pawakan; such a pawakan is very much at variance with Javanese aesthetics, it presents the feeling of distortion and physical disability, as would be seen in a cripple.

The kinatah work is of a style that I cannot relate to any Indonesian style that I can recall, but it does look quite similar to some Indian work that I've seen.

Then there is the length. At 10.25" this is a very short keris blade, however I cannot see any evidence that it has been shortened:- the kruwingan is still as it should be, the kinatah work finishes at the edge of the kruwingan, there is no distortion nor interruption to the flow of the lines; to me, everything looks as it should. But there is an abnormality in the cross section of the blade in that there is flat face to the blade as we would expect in a Bugis style keris.
At 10.25" this blade is short, but from the displayed image, the sorsoran and gonjo appear to be proportionate to the length.

I still doubt that this keris was made in the Peninsula or in any part of what is now Indonesia.

Having said that, I'm now going to qualify what I've said:- I've formed this opinion based on fairly inadequate photos; you may well be correct, this weapon might be a product of the Peninsula or Indonesia; probably the only way we could know with certainty would be to know the complete provenance, and that appears not to be available.

Whenever I see a "one off" I always remember Panembahan Harjonegoro and the Solo Keris Mafia. Harjonegoro was acknowledged as one of the most knowledgeable people of the 20th century in the field of Javanese art and most especially the keris. He was a very, very knowledgeable and clever man.
But whenever one of the Shifty Shonks in the SKM was short of money they'd simply come up with something new, unique and undoubtedly old --- even if it had been made yesterday. Harjonegoro was virtually always a certain buyer.
In keris art, genuine quality runs in pattern styles. Where something varies from the norm the red flags must go up. The further back in time we go, the more this must apply, simply because nothing in a keris is dependent upon the whim of the maker, he must conform if he is to produce a true keris.Old keris were loaded with symbolism, so when a keris varies from the norm, the symbolism is distorted and can no longer be read, and this means that the iconography of the keris no longer exists. If the iconography no longer can be read, the keris has lost its purpose. Thus, if I see something like this weapon, I ask myself:- " what is being said?" if I cannot hear an answer, I can only assume that the maker was not speaking in the correct language.
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Old 2nd December 2012, 03:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
I cannot see any evidence that this keris is not in its original state, based upon what I can see in the photos this keris appears to have been made with these blade lines.
Alan, the edge on front (Gandhik) side is distincly narrower over its whole length then on back side. On back side there is a Pudak Sategal, on front side at the same place there are kinatah lines just ending nowhere.

So I suppose, the narrower edge is an indication for an extensive reshaping/resharpening after a damage to a hypothetical front Pudak Sategal. During this reshaping Pudak Sategal was removed, together with a distinct part of the front edge.

Also the Kinatah in area towards the tip of blade is disturbed, especially at the front side.
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Old 2nd December 2012, 08:46 PM   #14
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Yes, it does appear to be narrower, and you could well be correct about the hypothetical pudak setegal, but don't forget we are looking at a photo, and a pretty poor photo at that. A very small variation in camera angle can create quite a disparity in symmetry; I tend to ignore this sort of thing when I'm looking at a photo.

This could be error on my part, in that I always expect an inaccurate representation. However, even if we allow that there was a pudak there, that does not alter the pawakan, and that in my mind is a major factor. But a missing pudak would explain the feeling of looking at a cripple, and the conflict with aesthetics.

Although I do not feel that the kinatah pattern is "ending nowhere", as it does echo the pattern on the other side of the blade --- for as far as it goes --- you could well be correct about a missing pudak since extending the pattern to finish exactly as the other side does would equalise the pattern.

I'm not convinced Gustav, but this is simply because we're working from photos. If we had the thing in our hands and could see the surface, the edges, and feel the balance, I might agree with you completely. I just cannot get enough information from this photo to allow me to agree with you based upon what I can see.

Your ideas would explain a lot, but the one major thing that they do not explaion is the pawakan. Where can we place a pawakan like this? And bear this in mind:- if there was a pudak there as you suggest, the pawakan would be even more ludicrous.

However, putting all that to one side, you do have very acute powers of observation and you have drawn our attention to some elements in this weapon that are certainly worthy of consideration.

Edit:- I have questioned the pawakan a lot, but there is a Peninsula style of keris that does place the point at an extreme offset such as this keris has; the type of keris I have in mind is a blade without luk, but with a very pronounced curve. If we combine this blade offset with the flat blade faces that are a feature of Bugis style blades, maybe we are indeed looking at a Peninsula blade, which would make the "Malay" attribution more attributable to actual Malaya, rather than as a generic as I initially proposed. But then we still have that Jawa style gonjo and sorsoran.
Based on what can be seen, I don't think it is possible to go any further with this thing, we would really need to handle it.

Last edited by A. G. Maisey; 2nd December 2012 at 08:59 PM. Reason: clarification.
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Old 3rd December 2012, 09:31 AM   #15
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I have checked if I could find any example of a kris blade dapur with such an offset on the wadidang side but failed.
I have one Javanese blade with an offset but it is on the gandik side, not very marked, and up on the blade so it cannot be compared with the kris in question. This dapur has been identified as Lar Bango but it is more common for pedangs.
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Old 3rd December 2012, 01:01 PM   #16
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Jean, what I meant by an "offset" was this:- if we draw a line through the middle of the pesi at 90 degrees to a level surface and extend that line to the same length as the point, the distance from the line to the point is the offset.

When we make a blade this offset, or blade angle, is the first thing that is set before we start to actually shape the blade, we do this by marking out the pesi, then the bottom line of the blade then using a big matrix --- in Jawa floors are tiled, so we use the squares of the tiles --- we set the blade angle. That blade angle is dictated by the fashion for wrongkos. If we set a blade angle that is too upright, or too bent forward ( as this blade under discussion is) it results in a wrongko that is out of step with current fashion, and thus unacceptable for polite use.
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Old 3rd December 2012, 01:52 PM   #17
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My knowledge of Keris is minute, approaching zero.

But in any other culture, traditions are not ossified. Minor modifications always occur and often accumulate. Thus, judging a 300 year old object as violating aesthetic criteria of the contemporary state of affairs by what we learned from our personal teachers ( all 20th century), or from our experience with a very limited number of contemporary or later examples might give us a false impression.
This Keris stands on its own, representing an unquestionable reality. And perhaps the only way to view it is to accept the imperfection of our knowledge rather than the "imperfection" of the object. As was said, the great tragedy of science is a beautiful hypothesis slain by an ugly fact:-)

Let's not forget: zoologists still encounter unknown or supposedly extinct species, and those are infinitely more complex than just a piece of metal with golden decorations created by a single human being and never intended for survival and procreation.
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Old 3rd December 2012, 05:30 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Jean, what I meant by an "offset" was this:- if we draw a line through the middle of the pesi at 90 degrees to a level surface and extend that line to the same length as the point, the distance from the line to the point is the offset.
Alan, thank you for the clarification.
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Old 3rd December 2012, 09:38 PM   #19
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I appreciate your comment Ariel, and in some respects what you have said is very accurate. However, when I made the comment about aesthetic standards, I was not using a yardstick manufactured in recent times. There are some aspects of Javanese aesthetics that have remained constant over time, and when we wish to appraise any Javanese art from a past era we must appraise it in comparison with what we know of the aesthetics of the time when it might have been produced. Fortunately we do know quite a lot about the artistic standards and parameters of Javanese art through the ages.

However, having said that, one constant in Javanese aesthetics is the measure of harmony. This applies in the 21st century just as it did all the way back to the Early Classical period, say 600-1000CE in Central Jawa. By Javanese standards this keris lacks harmony, and it lacks harmony in very large measure. The lack of harmony is so great that it is sufficient to disturb a refined Javanese sensibility. It is downright ugly. It screams. And it would have done pretty much the same 500 years ago.

The reality of this particular keris is that it does not represent an unquestionable reality. That is the reason why we are questioning it. If Gustav is correct it has been altered from its original form. I've had a couple of guesses at it, one of which suggests manufacture outside the culture that certain tells indicate as its origin, and the other of which places it in a variant of the culture, which at the time it was probably made was very different in its values to Javanese culture.

Gustav:- its been damaged and reshaped

Maisey:- #1 --- its a copy made in India
Maisey:- # 2 --- it displays Bugis, Javanese, and Peninsula characteristics (& unmentioned, possibly even Sumatra characteristics)

In both Gustav's hypothesis, and in my own two ideas, we place it well and truly away from a Javanese aesthetic base.

The true reality of any keris of the artistic level of this one under discussion is that it was not created by one individual:- its creation is the product of the tradition which produced it; the maker was not free to make as he wished, he was compelled to produce an object that complied with the demands of the lord who commissioned it, and to work within very restrictive parameters. This keris when it was made, if it was made in a keris bearing society rather than outside it as I first theorised, was produced to set rules and intended to be read iconographically. If it was made outside a keris bearing society this would not apply, and if it was made in a place other than Jawa (which it was), then the iconography cannot be read in the same way, but that iconography still did exist and would have been understood by the people concerned with it at that time.

If Gustav is correct and we are looking at something that has been damaged, this is almost the same as looking at a Renaissance religious sculpture that is missing parts, or a poem that is missing stanzas:- it simply makes no sense. Why? Because it can no longer be read, we can only guess.

Ariel, I really do appreciate your new interest in keris. Its very gratifying to see a new interest in this subject develop, and I'm certain that all of us who are regular contributors here feel the same way. The keris is without any doubt at all the most complex area of edged weaponry to try to understand, even in a very limited way it presents enormous difficulties that other fields of edged weaponry do not. Japanese weaponry is recognised for its difficulties, but with Japanese weaponry there is a very great deal of information available:- if you have a good memory you can learn Japanese weaponry. It is not possible to learn the keris without learning Javanese culture, society, art, architecture, history, and in fact learning how to understand Javanese thought processes. This is the reason why very, very few people in societies outside Jawa have ever been able to gain an understanding of the keris:- it is simply too hard; the best that most of us can do is to gain a very small part of an understanding. One does not learn the keris by studying the keris. I've said this many times, and it is an accurate statement. To learn the keris we need to learn other things. In respect of aesthetics, a good place to start is by looking at art and architecture. Here are a few reference works that it may be worthwhile having a look at at:-


Bennett James, "Crescent Moon: Islamic Art & Civilisation in Southeast Asia", the Art Gallery of South Australia& the National Gallery of Australia, 2005,
ISBN 0 7038 3030 6

Bodrogi Tibor, "Art of Indonesia", Academy Editions, 1973

Coomaraswamy Ananda K., "History of Indian and Indonesian Art", Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1965, Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 65-24018

Fontein J., "The Sculpture of Indonesia", 1990, ISBN 0-89468-141-9.

Jessup H.I., "Court Arts of Indonesia", The Asia Society Galleries & Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1990, ISBN 0-8109-3165-6

Kempers A.J.Bernet , "Ancient Indonesian Art", Harvard University Press, Cambridge,Massachusetts, 1959.

Ramseyer Urs, "The Art and Culture of Bali", Schwabe & Co. AG, Verlag Basel, 2002, ISBN 3-7965-1886-9

Subadio Haryati (editor), "Pusaka: Art of Indonesia", Editions Didier Millet Pte. Ltd., 1992, ISBN 979-8353-00-5

Van Der Hoop A.N.J.Th.a Th., "Indonesian Ornamental Design", A.C. Nix & Co., Bandoeng, 1949.

Van Lohuizen-De Leeuw J.E., "Indo-Javanese Metalwork", Linden Museum Stuttgart, 1984.

(unattributable), "Indonesian Art, Treasures of the National Museum", Editions Diddier Millet Pte. Ltd., (1998?), ISBN 962-593-320-4

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Old 4th December 2012, 02:26 PM   #20
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I am pleased that David brought this up for discussion here. When I first saw the original thread in the Ethno forum, I almost posted a "what are we seeing here?" comment about this weapon before being distracted by far less interesting but more demanding things (i.e. work ).

(Also good to see you again, Erik. How are you?)
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