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Finely Carved Whale Tooth Kris Hilt
Madura, Indonesia
19th century

length: 9.3cm, weight: 147g

This exquisitely carved kris hilt is of whale tooth. The design is a splendid example of the Madurese style of kris hilt - Madura being a primarily Islamic island off
the east coast of Java and near to Bali, all of which are parts of the Indonesian archipelago.

The style, known as
donoriko, is zoomorphic but not overly so, in keeping with Islamic precepts against animal forms. The hilt has a large upper section that is
rounded and bent forward with protuberances to either side.

The composition of the motifs employed on this hilt is quite remarkable. A pair of winged creatures with human faces have been carved onto either side and
these reach around to the underside of the hilt to pull back folds of a curtain to reveal an elaborate solar or flower motif that has been carved with some type
of script (exactly what is unclear). This sits above a band carved with four lion heads spread evenly around the base of the
kris. The back of the hilt has been
decorated with a large European-style crown and ribbons or some type of stream issues from its base. Another crown has been carved into the frontal mode
of the hilt.

As such, the hilt is a particularly fine and complex example of the superb carving skills of Madurese artists who were noted for their painstaking precision and
elaborate decorative work (Ghiringhelli, 2011, p. 98.)

krises in Indonesia were imbued with magical properties. Elaborate examples such as this one were part of the pustaka or heirlooms of the
aristocracy to be passed from generation to generation. They were considered to have magic and to imbue magic and power on their owners.

The hilt here with its elaborate floral and fern-like scrolling and apparent colonial references is a small sculpture in its own right.

It has a superb honeyed patina that accords with an early 19th century dating.

Ghiringhelli, V., Kris Hilts: Masterpieces of South-East Asian Art, 5 Continents, 2011.
Keris, Penerbit Djambatan, 1988.

Provenance: private collection, UK

Inventory no.: 4552 SOLD

Click here to see more antique Asian weapons & weapons-related items.
A carved stone panel at the Maduwe Karang Temple, northern Bali, which incorporates the
Dutch crown motif. Bali is adjacent to Madura where the crown motif often was used in artwork.