VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Dagger (keris) with two sheaths
SMV 37-12-1 1a
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Keris were products of a ritual process. Sacred keris were once made for particular people with specific magical powers in mind. The blade forms and patterns had special meanings and could be keyed to certain individual traits. A man's character had to be in harmony with the character and spirit of the keris he owned. He sought a compatible keris with powers that would work for him, a keris that would become his "spirit brother". A keris not only protected his owner physically, itt could be wielded as a weapon, but it also gave him magical protection. Its in-dwelling spirit or power was believed to deflect misfortune. Making a keris blade was a dangerous process. The creation of such a magical instrument demanded the release and control of threatening powers that could go astray if not treated properly. Offerings were made both as an honour to the spirit of the keris and to appease malevolent spirits that might hinder the work or cause an accident. The smith prepared and purified himself by fasting. Favourable working days were determined through a complex calendrical system. In the forge, the smith bound together many layers of iron, some containing nickel, to form the bar from which the blade was shaped. Sometimes, as with our example , the blade would be further sculptured and encrusted with gold. The finished blade would be "dressed" with a handle and sheath, each with elaborate fittings. This required several skilled craftsmen and months of painstaking work. The blade and dressing of this keris reflects the high social rank of the recipient, Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria. The red lacquered metal oversheath could only be worn by immediate relatives of the ruler. The wooden sheath, painted with mountain, water, plant and animal motifs represents the macrocosm.

History of the Object
The keris was a gift of the Susuhunan of Surakarta, Pakubuwono X., to Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria when he visited Central Java in 1903. He gave it to our museum as a gift in 1937.

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Type
Weaponry 
Materials
Iron, nickel, wood, metal, lacquer, gems 
Measurements
Length 47.5 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Indonesia, Central Java 
Geography
Indonesia 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 18th century 
Creation date
pre-1755 
Function
The keris is not simply a weapon but also an art form, an article of formal dress, a token of rank, a symbol of authority, and a sacred heirloom endowed with a spirit and magical powers. 
Acquisition
Acquired by the museum as a gift in 1937. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
State property, Germany 
Museum
Five Continents Museum, Munich 
Credit line
State Museum of Ethnology, Munich, Germany 

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