A dagger hilt




Mughal Empire


18th century


Carving, inlaying, gem-setting


Jade, diamonds, emeralds, ruby, gold


Length 148 mm

The hilt is carved from one solid piece of pale grey jade with scrolled quillons and a transverse forked pommel topped by a bud-shaped button. The pommel and the base are decorated with raised lotus flowers and foliage. The hilt is also inlaid with gold and set with precious stones in the kundan technique. Total 8 diamonds, 8 emeralds, and 1 ruby.

COMMENT. The presented hilt was originally carved with floral motifs only, while the gems were added later, probably to make it more attractive and valuable. A Mughal dagger with a similar jade hilt but without gems can be seen in the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge (inv. no. 1984.864). For some other similar examples, see Bonhams: Islamic & Indian Art. Tuesday 5 April 2011, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2011. – Lot 326; Christie’s: Antique Arms and Armour from the Collection of Dr. & Mrs. Jerome Zwanger and the Property of Various Other Owners. Tuesday 12 December 2006, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2006. – Lot 93; Christie’s: Arts of India. 12 June 2014, London, South Kensington: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2014. – Lot 130; Christie’s: Art of the Islamic and Indian World. Thursday 9 October 2014, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2014. – Lot 165; Czerny’s. Auction 26: The Autumn Sale of Antique Arms, Orders & Militaria: 24th and 25th of October 2009, Sarzana: [Auction Catalogue]. – Sarzana, 2009. – Lot 1588; Khorasani, M.M. The Arms and Armor Collection of Dr. Alexander von Hoffmeister // Quaderni Asiatici 117. – Marzo 2017. – P. 106, no. 14; Sotheby’s: Indian & Southeast Asian Works of Art. New York, 19 March 2008: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2008. – Lots 330 and 331. A dagger with a similar-shaped rock crystal hilt is located in the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in Jaipur (inv. no. L18.1756, see Elgood, R. Arms & Armour at the Jaipur Court: The Royal Collection. – New Delhi, 2015. – P. 38-39, no. 11). Robert Hales believes that this specific hilt form could have appeared in the Mughal Empire under the influence of quite similar but earlier Chinese jade hilts that dated by different researchers from the Southern Song dynasty to the late Ming dynasty, that is, between 1127 and 1644 (see Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion. – London, 2013. – P. 23, no. 57). The above-described Mughal hilt form was popular during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in China, where it was often reproduced in jade sometimes together with a knuckle-guard (for example, see Christie’s: A Collecting Legacy: Fine Chinese Jade Carvings and Works of Art from the Lizzadro Collection. Thursday 21 March 2013, New York, Rockefeller Center: [Auction Catalogue]. – New York, 2013. – Lot 860).

LITERATURE: Mallams: The Gentleman's Library Sale. Oxford, Wednesday 25th June 2014: [Auction Catalogue]. – Oxford, 2014. – Lot 540.