Originally from Java, the kris is a most distinctive dagger, and spread throughout the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and many of the smaller islands. The origin can be traced back to the fifteenth century, and examples are depicted in early stone sculptures. Most islands and regions have their own characteristic style. As these two examples show, the blade of the kris can be either straight (see lot 22) or wavy (as this one). Each blade is made by combining iron and steel forming layers, to create a distinctive pattern (pamor). The hilts of these two kris are finely engraved in the form of a bird-head identifiable as Garuda, the steed of Vishnu. Sometimes hilts and blades from different areas are combined to form a personalized weapon. The kris was a fundamental part of the outfit of a warrior, who could wear up to three at one time: his personal kris (worn on his left and used for fighting) and two representing his family (worn on his left). During times of peace only one personal kris was worn, usually on the right, and was part of the court regalia; to appear without one was considered a high offence. The largest collection of kris is now in the Batavia Museum, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Various materials are used for kris hilts: wood is probably the most common and several examples from the sixteenth century onwards are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. No. IS. 371 & A-1950), in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. No. 36.25.1226) and in the Wallace Collection, London (inv. No. 1634). Another example with a very similar hilt to the present lot 22, is published in R. Hales, Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour, A Lifetime’s Passion, London, 2013, p. 124, no. 301). Some examples are set with semi-precious stones, or have a gold hilt as can be seen in this lot and also in ibid., p. 116 no. 281.