3594

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Rare, Unusually Large Tridacna Clam Shell Kris Hilt

Malay People, Terengganu, Malaysia
19th century

height (without stand): 11cm, width: 11cm, weight: 302g, height with stand: 17cm

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Provenance

private collection, UK.

This very rare kris or sword hilt is carved from a single piece of tridacna clam shell. It is unusually large and particularly sculptural. Zoomorphic in styling, the ‘nose’ is especially elongated, and the top crest is particularly high. It is heavy in the hand – weighing almost a third of a kilogram. It is from the Malay people on the East Coast of the Malay Peninsula.

Kris hilts carved from clam shell are very rarely encountered. Few have been illustrated and relatively few are in museums.

The example here comes with a silver-gilt hilt collar (mendak) that has been chased with flowers all the way around, and a wooden stand.

A smaller example with a less pronounced crest is illustrated in Ghiringhelli (2011, p. 128).

There is a small nick to the to top of the crest but this might be part of small natural cavity in the shell. Overall, the hilt is in excellent condition.

References

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

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