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A gold-mounted saif sabre

Number

M30.004

Origin

Saudi Arabia (hilt and scabbard); Europe (blade)

Time

The first half of the 20th century (hilt and scabbard); 19th century (blade)

Technique

Forging, casting, repoussé, chasing, embossing, gilding, filigree

Material

Steel, gold, silver, brass, bone, wood

Dimensions

Overall length (without scabbard) 925 mm; blade length 800 mm; scabbard length 826 mm

The slightly curved, single-edged blade is made of plain steel with a false edge and two broad fullers on each side. The upper fuller turns into three narrow fullers at some distance from the base of the blade. The hilt consists of a small silver cruciform guard, straight grip, and a gold pommel cap. The grip is formed by two ivory scales attached to the tang by three rivets with domed gold heads. The base of the grip is tightly bound with thin gold wire. The gold grip strap is ornamented with filigree and false granulation. The quillon block is applied on each side with a gold quatrefoil panel embossed with a symmetrical floral design. The quillons and langets are applied with small gold panels embossed with foliage, and the quillon ends are shaped like ribbed domes and are gilded. The front quillon is connected to the pommel cap by a triple knuckle-chain of brass. The scabbard is a silver case containing two wooden inserts. The upper part of the scabbard is covered with sheet gold decorated on each side with repoussé floral motifs and an applied panel in the form of a stylized scorpion or agrab. The lower part of the scabbard is applied with embossed gold panels, the same as on the quillon block. The scabbard is fitted with two gold bands each with bulging sides and one suspension ring. The spine of the scabbard is chased with the maker’s name "Abdulaziz bin Bali".

COMMENT. Saif is the common term for Arab sabres that exhibit a wide variety of local styles. The word saif simply means "sword" or "sabre" in Arabic. The local variations of the saif differ among themselves mainly in the form of a hilt, and particularly the pommel. Some forms are closely related to the North African nimcha, while the others gravitate toward the Iranian shamshir. In most cases, the Arab sabre hilts include a simple cruciform guard and a knuckle-chain instead of an ordinary knuckle-bow. Blades come in a wide variety of forms as well. Arabs extensively used blades of foreign origin that were often imitated by local craftsmen. These blades had been imported at first from Iran, India and Turkey, but later they were supplanted by European blades. The presented sabre is a fine example of saif with a baddawi style hilt (see Weapons of the Islamic World: Swords & Armour: An Exhibition at the Islamic Art Gallery. – Riyadh, 1991. – P. 43). At the same time, it belongs to a group of prestigious sabres that have been given by the royal family of Saudi Arabia as gifts to important persons and foreign dignitaries. The tradition of gift-giving the gold-mounted sabres and daggers to honorary guests continues today in all the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

LITERATURE: Сиваченко Е. Сталь и Золото: Восточное оружие из собрания Feldman Family Museum = Steel and Gold: Eastern Weapons from the Feldman Family Museum Collection. – Киев, 2019. – С. 68-69, №8.