Place of Origin: Java
Date: 19th or 20th Century
This chopping tool is known as a bedok and comes to us from Java. It is likely to be derived from that traditional Indonesian machete-sword called the golok. Van Zonneveld includes two examples of the bedok in his important work Traditional Weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago (see p.24, nos.70 and 71), describing them with the term bendo—an old classification widely thought to be inaccurate now.
This example, perhaps the finest I have seen, has a horn handle carved in the form of a bird’s head and is in the manner of many wooden goloks originating from Tjipatjing, a known centre of production in the West of Java. The bird’s upper beak whorls inward to form a curlicue while layered feathers cover the handle’s rear. The short, wide-bellied blade has been manufactured to a high standard, with a temper line running the length of its edge. A wide fuller sits on each side near the spine and provides a background for Arabic inscriptions that are wonderfully executed and probably talismanic in nature:
SIDE A (possibly to be read from the bottom upwards):
“O God (?), indeed he entered…safely and King Solomon (Sulayman) from the East and the West (?), in his essence, attributes, deeds, powers and well-being.”
SIDE B (again, possibly to be read from the bottom upwards):
“From the East and the West…a wind and a cloud, and Gabriel (Jibra'il) and Michael (Mikha'il) and Israfil and 'Azra'il and King Solomon.”
The scabbard has an ebony throat-piece with a carefully chased lower border, and this sits against a main body that is made of red-brown wood with white-metal mounts. A belt hook projects from one side.
With such substantial and practical properties married to a design of high elegance, it is likely that this piece was made for somebody of high regard in Javanese culture.
Provenance: UK art market