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A jade-mounted talwar sabre

Number

M30.034

Origin

Mughal Empire (probably Delhi)

Time

18th century

Technique

Forging, carving, inlaying, gem-setting

Material

Steel, gold, jade, rubies, emeralds, wood, brocade

Dimensions

Overall length (without scabbard) 790 mm; blade length 667 mm; scabbard length 684 mm

The slightly curved, single-edged blade is made of watered steel with a ricasso and a yelman. There are two pairs of short fullers and one pair of long fullers on each side of the blade. The hilt is carved from one solid piece of white jade with a bulbous grip, disc pommel and short scroll quillons. The guard is formed as an inverted lobed arch connecting the quillons. All parts of the hilt are decorated with floral motifs inlaid with gold and set with cabochon rubies in the traditional Indian kundan technique. The wooden scabbard is covered with flower-patterned red brocade fabric. The scabbard chape is carved from white jade and decorated en suite with the hilt. In addition, the scabbard is embellished with two identical circular white jade plaques that were originally formed part of an expensive baldric. Each plaque is inlaid with gold and set with gems. Total 371 rubies and 22 emeralds on the hilt and scabbard.

COMMENT. The elegant design, the use of expensive materials and the excellence of workmanship indicate that the sabre belonged to a person of high status. The unusually light blade is made of high-grade watered steel. The hilt and scabbard mounts are carved from the rarest and most expensive variety of jade, which is referred in India to as motiya yashab meaning "pearl jade" (see Untracht, O. Traditional Jewelry of India. – London, 2008. – P. 118). In China, it is known as yang zhi yu or "mutton fat jade". During the Mughal period (1526-1858), the jade was imported to India in a limited number from the regions Khotan and Yarkand in East Turkestan (now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China), so it was very expensive and only accessible to the elite. The high-quality white jade was prized above gold. The Mughal sabre hilts carved from jade are very rare, unlike jade dagger hilts. A magnificent sabre with a bejewelled white jade hilt is currently in the Wallace Collection in London (inv. no. OA1402). Judging by the inscription on the blade, it belonged to Tipu Sultan (1750-1799), the well-known ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in South India (r. 1782-99). A similar white jade hilt can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (inv. no. 630-1875). For other similar examples, see Keene, M., Kaoukji, S. Treasury of the World: Jeweled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals. The Al-Sabah Collection. Kuwait National Museum. – London, 2001. – P. 43, no. 2.32; Sotheby’s: Arts of the Islamic World Including Fine Carpets and Textiles. London, 24 October 2007: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2007. – Lot 247. The hilt of the above-described sabre is somewhat different from the standard form, since it features an arch-shaped guard with scroll quillons. Mughal khanjar daggers and Chinese straight swords (jian) of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) often have similar shaped quillons. The presented item is an outstanding work not only of weapons craft, but also of decorative-applied and jewelry art of the Mughal Empire.

LITERATURE: 1) Сіваченко Є. Холодна зброя Сходу з колекції Олександра Фельдмана: [фотоальбом]. – Харків, 2009. – С. 26-27; 2) Сиваченко Е. Легендарный камень Востока. Индийские изделия из нефрита в коллекции Александра Фельдмана // Антиквар: Журнал об антиквариате, искусстве и коллекционировании (Киев). – 2012. – №12 (69). – С. 60-75; 3) Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion. – London, 2013. – P. 46, no. 101; 4) Сиваченко Е. Использование нефрита в оружейном искусстве Индии эпохи Великих Моголов: исторические, технические и художественные аспекты (на примере предметов из коллекции Feldman Family Museum) // Історія давньої зброї. Дослідження 2014: Збірник наукових праць = History of Antique Arms. Researches 2014: Collection of Scientific Papers. – Київ, 2014. – С. 200-215; 5) 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. 286-289, №105.