Ritual + Culture / A BALINESE GOLD KRIS HILT INDONESIA, LATE 19TH-EARLY 20TH CENTURY
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A BALINESE GOLD KRIS HILT
11 cm high
An exquisitely carved Royal Balinese gold and gem-encrusted kris hilt in the form of a wrathful figure. Profusely decorated with rubies and sapphires, the cast gold surface is moulded around a core material and decorated with elaborate repoussé work and incised detailing.
The figure is depicted seated on a rock, holding a fan in his right hand with his arm stretched over his shoulder, the left hand by his waist holding a swath of cloth, his face with large fangs and ferocious expression. Long and perfectly defined curls flow down his back and his body is adorned with elaborate jewellery.
Sometimes referred to as rakshasa (ogre), this type of hard to identify wrathful figure is often seen adorning the hilts of Balinese krisses. Other noteworthy examples are depictions of the monkey god Hanuman and his spiritual father, the wind god Batara Bayu.
Deeply rooted in the Malay world in both ritual prescriptions and mythology, the kris has played a particularly important role in Balinese society. Standing as pusaka, a powerful sanctified heirloom and serving as a strong marker of socio-economic status, a kris could only be made by Pande blacksmiths who claim status higher than that of a Brahman.
This example of a Balinese kris hilt is particularly noteworthy for the quality of its crisp sculptural detailing and fluid modelling of form.
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Richter, A. (2000). The jewelry of Southeast Asia. London: Thames & Hudson, cat. 196, pp. 191.
Stark, P. and Content, D. (1992). Gold & silver auction, Taisei Gallery. Singapore: Taisei Gallery, lot 476.
Reichle, N., Brinkgreve, F. and Stuart-Fox, D. (2010). Bali: Art, ritual and performance. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum--Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture, pp. 257.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York acc. no. 28.23.2a, b
Metmuseum.org. (2019). [online] Available at: