Southeast Asia, Indonesia, ca. late 19th century. A gorgeous ensemble of three finely-carved, wooden kris handles, all with figural forms. Presenting in a hue of caramel brown, the first depicts a bare-chested woman bowing her head forward and turning slightly to her left as her lengthy hair cascades down her back. Her tranquil visage displays full lips, a pointed nose, large, elegant eyes, and a thick unibrow, all flanked by pointed, elf-like ears. She is adorned with a long, undulating necklace that falls beneath her breasts, two arm bands, a dotted headband, and a flowing skirt that hangs from a belt adorned by maze motifs. The second handle, also of a caramel hue, is carved in the form of a male figure seated on a decorative plinth with his legs drawn up before him. Size of largest: 1.5" W x 4.375" H (3.8 cm x 11.1 cm); 5.25" H (13.3 cm) on included custom stand.
Capped by carefully incised, chin-length hair and a hemispherical headdress, the intriguing figure showcases a huge head with a bow-lipped frown, a bulbous nose, and closed eyes under a narrowed brow. His hands rest atop his legs on both sides of his rotund belly, and sizable adornments hang from his ears. The last kris handle is carved in the form of a deep-bowing male figure seated on an embellished stool, all presenting in a shade of mocha brown. Draped in a long robe with a swirling motif over a tunic, he places one hand on his stomach and the other at his side. Topped with a petite headdress, his visage shows two almond-shaped eyes held wide-open under an arched brow, a flat nose, and a straight mouth, all flanked by two giant ears.
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. Traditionally, krises were worn every day as well as for special ceremonies; both men and women wore them. They were passed down through families. They were also used for display, as talismans with magical powers, weapons, heirlooms, accessories for ceremonial dress, and indicators of social status.
Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA collection
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Male with legs drawn up has fissure from base up to his head with clay or putty over the break line, making it difficult for him to fit onto his stand. Bowing male has minor fissure near bottom. All have expected surface wear with light nicks, scratches, and some softening of details, commensurate with age. Otherwise, all are very nice with lovely earthen deposits in recessed areas.