Southeast Asia, Indonesia, ca. early to mid 20th century CE. A dramatic example of a kris (keris) with a gorgeous cow horn handle. An artist has painstakingly carved the horn to have two faces on the inside of its joints. The blade is straight and narrow, aside from the characteristic flaring portion immediately below the guard. A copper guard studded with green, red, and white inlaid sapphires is between the handle and the blade. The sheath has an enormous wooden opening that curves upward on both sides; below that it follows the shape of the blade, and is covered in repousse tin with a relief floral pattern on one side. Size with sheath: 19.05" L x 7.7" W (48.4 cm x 19.6 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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