Object Title

Sword (kilic)

Sword (kilic)

Date

1801-1830

Object Number

XXVIS.44

Provenance

Presented by J R Gaunt and Son Ltd, 1956.

Physical Description

The blade is single edged and curved, becoming double edged near the point; there are several nicks in the cutting edge. It is decorated near to the hilt on both sides with inscriptions in gold onlay; on one side of the blade there is a roundel containg a six pointed star/ hexagram and text, and a further strip or panel near the back edge containing three short sections of text; on the opposite side are two cartouches of text. The blade shows signs of a 'watered', rippling pattern on the surface, suggesting it is made from crucible steel.

The cross guard is of gilded metal with tapering quillons flaring out into rounded oval finials. The guard is engraved between the quillons with a circle containing a six pointed star or hexagram with an inscription in the centre on one side and a flower on the reverse. The rounded pistol-grip hilt is made from panels of pale, orange-hued horn fastened by tiny gilt rivets with rosette heads, the two halves of the grip being separated by a grooved gilt strip.

The scabbard is of wood covered with black grained leather. It is fitted with a long gilt locket and chape, both engraved with borders, flowers and foliage. On the locket, below each rimmed compartment for the langets is a raised shell, and on each side near the mouth of the scabbard is a small cartouche containing the same inscription found inside the six-pointed star on the crossguard of the hilt. There are two gilt metal suspension rings fitted around the scabbard. The scabbard has a dedicated slit down the upper side to allow the angular curved blade to be drawn with ease.

Dimensions

BladeLength772 mm
ScabbardLength805 mm
ScabbardWeight0.52 kg
SwordLength910 mm
SwordWeight0.825 kg
OverallLength940 mm

Inscriptions and Marks

Inscriptions
For details and translations of inscriptions, see Notes
Both sides of the blade, on the hilt and the scabbard mouth
Gold overlay or koftgari

Associations

Places Turkey/Asia

Notes

The numerous inscriptions on this sword can be interpreted as follows:

Outer side of the blade:
Near the hilt, there is a medallion formed from two interlocking triangles which form a six-pointed star or hexagram; inside the hexagram is an inscription in gold overlay/koftgari: 'Allah' (God)
Further down the blade along the back is a longer strip of calligraphic decoration, formed from three adjoining cartouches; in the middle of each cartouche is a line of cursive text in gold overlay/koftgari; the legible elements are translated as 'I put my trust in God'; 'Captain[?]', 'As God wills'

Inner side of the blade:
Near the hilt is a cartouche containing two lines of cursive writing applied in gold overlay/koftgari, quite poorly worked and with patchy losses which make the unclear text even harder to read; interpreted as ‘In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful’ (transliteration: bismallah al rahman al rahim) but this is not certain.
Further down the blade is a cursive signature in a cartouche, applied in gold overlay/koftgari, deciphered as ‘made by Asad Allah Isfahani’, meaning Asadullah of Isfahan.

Hilt:
On the inner side of the sword in the middle of the quillons is a six-pointed star or hexagram surrounded by a circle. In the interior of the hexagram is an inscription which reads ‘O Allah!’. In the spaces around the outside are small areas of fragmentary, cursive text, which Ludvic Kalus deciphered as representing the names of the Seven Sleepers or Companions of the Cave (L.Kalus, ‘Inscriptions Arabes et Persanes sur les armes Musulmanes de la Tour de Londres’, p.64)

Scabbard:
At either side of the metal fitting at the mouth of the scabbard, at the top of the recess accommodating the langet, is a small, irregularly scratched cartouche, containing a roughly chiselled inscription which seems to match that presented inside the hexagram on the hilt: ‘O Allah!’


In the notes accompanying his translation of the inscriptions on this sword, Ludvic Kalus highlighted the fact that they were examples of frequently used religious expressions. Such phrases were often used to decorate arms and armour and give them great meaning, showing reverence, submission and obedience to the will of God, and calling on God to bestow blessings and protection on their owners and bearers.

Kalus also noted that while the blade of this sword bears a signature attributing it to the celebrated, legendary Iranian swordsmith Asadullah of Isfahan, it was 'certainly' not his work. Instead, this is an interesting example of the use of this attribution over centuries and across the Turko-Iranian region of arms and armour production. For discussion of the debate over the identity of Asadullah of Isfahan and various possible explanations for use of the name, see for example D. Alexander, 'Islamic Arms and Armour in the Metropolitan Museum of Art' (2015) pp182-3.

Another point of interest is that Kalus suggested that the owner of this sword (whose name is probably included in the unreadable section of the extended strip of calligraphy running along the back of the blade) was probably European, because they claimed the rank of 'Captain' and included it in the inscription in transliterated form, rather than listing a Turkish rank.