19th century, probably originating from Cirebon.
Sheathed 82.5 cm
Sword 79.3 cm
Base 7.5 mm
Middle 5.5 mm
Start backedge 4.5
5 cm from tip 3 mm
Base 36 mm
Middle 35.5 mm
Start backedge 32.5
5 cm from tip 28.5 mm
12.1 cm from hilt
Iron, steel, wood, buffalo horn, silver
From a Dutch private collection
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Swords of this style are called pedang bengkok locally, which simply means "curved sword". They were made among others in Palembang, Sumatra, but also on the island of Lombok.
There seems to have been little standardization, and they are found with a wide variety of blade types. What all have in common are their characteristic hilt forms with flamboyantly carved horn pommels.
The Palembang variety is often better made, with better silverwork, and the grip section is often covered with a specific pattern made of up a mesh of lozenges with stylized flowers:
A very nice example of a Palembang style pedang benkok. Its blade has an even curve throughout its length, a hollow ground midsection flanked by a narrow groove near the spine and a sharp backedge.
The blade features a twistcore upper section and lower edge section with a straight grain. The twistcore is achieved by twisting a rod made of layers of steel, and then grinding the rod down to its core, exposing the twisted layers. The wide twistcore section seen in this blade means it was a very large rod, and lots of material was removed to create what we see here.
The hilt is of classic form with a finely carved horn pommel in a highly stylized garuda shape. It is covered with three segments of silver sheet worked in repousse, those near the blade done in a way that resembles European rococo.
The scabbard is made of two large pieces of highly prized calamander ebony, carved with floral scrollwork. It is held together by four silver bands and a silver chape, decorated with engraved work.
A similar type sword with comparable blade construction is published in Holstein, volume 2 plate XLIX.1
Holstein Plate XLIX.
It also has a narrow upper groove, like ours, but a very different style blade with a more moderate curve and oblique tip. The hilt doesn't widen towards the blade, as is usually encountered on this type of sword. No scabbard.
Holstein attributes the piece to Palembang, and states that it is 75.5 cm long with a 57.5 cm blade length.2
Blade in good condition. When looking along the edge one can see some distortions in the edge contour, places where the edge was ground down more in repeated sharpening and evening, often encountered on swords that have seen service. Otherwise free of damage or problematic pitting. Hilt in excellent condition, one dent on the grip plate, left side.
Scabbard in excellent condition, normal signs of wear. Moderate shrinkage of the wood loosened the silver bands somewhat so they can move. Nothing that worries or bothers me so I did not address it.
1. P. Holstein; Contribution à l'Etude des Armes Orientales. Paris. Les Éditions Albert Lévy. Vol. 2. Plate XLIX.
2. Ibid. Page 160.
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The Hindu mythical brother of Hanuman, the Monkey King.
A Madurese keris hilt, carved from dark hardwood in the form of a Dutch cuirassier.
With floral overlay, kinatah, typical for the period.
Of typical South Borneo workmanship, but formed like a mandau from Kutai.
Rare old keris handle made into a European wax seal.