Southeast Asia, Indonesia, ca. early 20th century CE. A beautiful example of a kris (keris) with a gorgeous carved hardwood handle of an abstract zoomorphic form. The sheath is carved in two pieces from hardwood with a projecting top portion detailed in wavy curvilinear motifs and the blade housing with a band of similar cloud-form shapes on one side. The wooden handle rests above a cup-shaped disc with a knotted upper periphery and eight faceted glass beads in red, green, and clear colors set within individual bezels. The blade is comprised of Damascus steel presenting its characteristic wavy appearance from extensive folding, and decorated with areas of gilded bronze depicting foliate motifs and a garuda head. Size: 19.3" L x 5.1" W (49 cm x 13 cm); length of blade: 14" L (35.6 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 examples, 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 Los Angeles County, California, USA collection
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