Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Java, Majapahit Empire, ca. 15th century CE. A very old example of an iron kris (keris). The handle is in the form of a standing anthropomorphic figure whose head is bent forward. The cast form has a great deal of detail on both front and back, giving the figure clothing and a haunting face. The iron blade is narrow, with the characteristic flared shape of many krises just below the guard. A wooden sheath protects the blade, which is a more recent addition to the piece, probably made in the early 20th century to replace another. Size with sheath: 4.75" W x 14.45" H (12.1 cm x 36.7 cm)
The kris is both a weapon and a spiritual object. The oldest known are from the 10th century CE; they are thought to have originated on the island of Java. The bladesmith, called an empu, formed the blade from layers of different iron ores and meteorite nickel. In high quality ones, the metal is folded dozens or even hundreds of times. Kris were worn every day and in special ceremonies; both men and women wear them. They were passed down through families. They were used for display, as talismans with magical powers, and weapons, and as heirlooms, as accessories for ceremonial dress, and indicators of social status. Kris blades are narrow, with wide, symmetrical bases. The aesthetic value has three elements: dhapur, the shape and design of the blade, with 40 variants; pamor, the pattern of metal alloy decoration on the blade, with 120 variants; and tangguh, the age and origin of kris. In 2005, the kris became a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Provenance: private Rochester, Michigan, USA collection
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