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A jade-hilted khanjar dagger

Number

3442

Origin

India (hilt); Iran (blade and scabbard)

Time

18th century (hilt); early 19th century (blade and scabbard)

Technique

Forging, chasing, repoussé, enamel painting

Material

Steel, gold, enamels, jade

Dimensions

Overall length (without scabbard) 380 mm; blade length 259 mm; scabbard length 278 mm

The strongly curved, double-edged blade is made of watered steel with a raised central rib on each side. The straight vase-shaped hilt is carved from one solid piece of pale celadon jade with relief acanthus leaves. The pommel and base of the hilt are formed as bouquets of large lotus buds and are connected by a knuckle-bow terminating in a small bud. The hilt is mounted on the blade using a gold ferrule. The wooden scabbard is encased in sheet gold painted in polychrome enamels with flower bouquets within lobed cartouches, as well as individual flowers and birds. The scabbard is fitted with a hanging open-work loop and terminates in a duck's head.

COMMENT. Khanjars were very popular both in Iran and in Mughal India. where they were preferred to decorate more carefully than any other type of dagger. If the Iranian khanjars have a waisted hilt and a curved, double-edged blade, then for Indian khanjars are characterized by a pistol-grip hilt and a double-edged, usually double-curved blade. At the same time, the Indian khanjar hilts varied in shape, often acquiring very bizarre outlines. They were made of jade, ivory, rock crystal, agate and were frequently studded with precious and semi-precious stones. The scabbards were also richly decorated to match the hilts. Mughal emperors often presented to courtiers expensive daggers as a part of the dress of honour called hilat.

The presented dagger is the product of close cultural and historical ties between Iran and India. Both the blade form and the enamel decor of the scabbard are typical of the Qajar period (1794-1925). However, it cannot be excluded that the dagger was mounted in Sindh (now in Pakistan) where Iranian craftsmen enjoyed the patronage of the ruling Talpur clan (r. 1783-1843). According to the English official James Burnes (1801-62), Persian goldsmiths were engaged at the Talpur court in enameling and gold inlaying, and they achieved the highest perfection in these arts (Burnes, J. A Narrative of a Visit to the Court of Sinde; a Sketch of the History of Cutch, from Its First Connexion with the British Government in India till the Conclusion of the Treaty of 1819; and Some Remarks on the Medical Topography of Bhooj. – Edinburgh, 1831. – P. 94). The Talpurs were renowned for their superb collections of weapons reflecting the artistic traditions of India and Iran. A vivid example of these weapons is a kard with an enameled gold scabbard dedicated to Mir Sher Muhammad Khan Talpur (1810-74), known as "The Lion of Sindh" (see Sotheby’s: Arts of the Islamic World. London, 24 April 2013: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2013. – Lot 212).

The almost identical Indian jade hilt but without a knuckle-guard is a formed part of an ornate Ottoman dagger from the Wallace Collection in London (inv. no. OA1728A). For other similar hilts, see Christie’s: A Window on the Orient – A Distinguished Private Collection. Thursday 4 November 2010, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2010. – Lot 249; Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion. – London, 2013. – P. 45, no. 98; Sotheby’s: Arts of the Islamic World. London, 5 April 2006: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2006. – Lot 153.

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. 260-261, №87.