An interesting pierced iron Asian export sword guard that
50 cm / 19.7 inch
39.5 cm / 15.5 inch
base 5 mm
middle 4.5 mm
near tip 3 mm
forte 41.5 mm
middle 29 mm
near tip 17 mm
Java or Sumatra, Indonesia.
Iron, silver, wood.
Probably late 18th century
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In Western literature this type of Indonesian sword is often called pedang lurus, literally "straight sword", even though they are not always perfectly straight. It probably refers to the fact they are straighter than a keris or saber.1 The term is specifically used for a group of Indonesian shortswords that come mounted entirely in silver.2 They typically bear some striking resemblances to European hunting swords, like the shape of handle and guard, the belt stopper on the scabbard, and the often ribbed scabbard end. The mounts, and sometimes the blades, were probably inspired by such hunting swords that were worn by colonists. Good silverwork was done in Java and Sumatra, and I suspect this is where most of them were made.
A fair number of these silver clad Indonesian shortswords bear markings on blade or scabbard: Some are made with cut-down Solingen blades from the V.O.C., retaining their V.O.C. markings. Others have native blades with V.O.C. markings, I personally own one marked "V.O.C. 1763". Another one, with the date 1792 was sold by Michael Backman in London. I suspect most were made as gifts between Indonesian and Colonial officials. Considering the early dates on every single one that comes dated, I suspect that they tend to be quite early as a type.
Despite the common western pedang lurus classification, this specific blade type with a somewhat downward curving, double edged tip section, is locally known as pedang suduk maru. The blade shape is a remnant of an ancient type of forward curved Indonesian sword, much like an elongated Nepalese seen on old temple reliefs.
Notes to introduction
1. The first mention of the name seems to be in G.B. Gardner; "Keris and other Malay weapons, Progressive Publishing Company, Singapore, 1936. Page 70.
2. Zonneveld, Albert van; Traditional weapons of the Indonesian archipelago. C. Zwartenkot Art Books, Leiden. Page 103.
A pedang lurus with substantial, unmarked, native blade. The blade has a very bold pamor (pattern) in black and silver lines that over many years were etched into a deep relief. The blade exhibits a pattern that connoisseurs of Tibetan and Bhutanese swords refer to as "hairpin forging". This is example exhibits a so-called "double hairpin" where the sharp bend in the layers occurs both at the tip and the base of the blade.1 Such a pattern is known locally among collectors as junjung drajat pamor (social status raiser pattern). The blade has a long, sharp backedge running over half the length of the blade.
The handle is elaborately chased and chiseled with a kirtimukha or "face of glory" on the pommel, and the handle is in its entirety covered with designs of its manes. It has a boat-shaped crossguard that fits perfectly to the scabbard mouth. The wooden scabbard is entirely covered with sheet silver with Javanese floral designs. The scabbard end is ribbed, the rib is partly lost.
Some losses on the silver on the flat edge of the scabbard and the bolster between handle and guard. The silver tarnishes with a blueish tint, a sign of very high purity silver.
A nice example of a pedang suduk maru / pedang lurus, a type of Indonesian sword that was styled after European hunting hangers. Based on various marked examples that circulate, I believe they were often made to be presented as diplomatic gifts.
Notes to text
1. I sold a Tibetan sword with similar, albeit more subtle layering last year. See: rare and early Eastern Tibetan shortsword.
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