Inventory no.: 4551

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


Carved Whale Tooth Kris Hilt

Madura, Indonesia

early 19th century

length: 8.5cm, weight: 79g

This exquisitely carved kris hilt is of whale tooth. The wear from age and handling, the nature of the whale tooth, and the cauliflower-like florettes give the hilt the appearance of brain matter!

The design is a fine 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 floral protuberances to either side.

The composition of the motifs employed on this hilt includes a large winged horse, and a large, pieced solar motif.


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 as a superb honeyed patina that accords with a 19th century dating.


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


Keris, Penerbit Djambatan, 1988.


private collection, UK

Inventory no.: 4551