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Object Title

Dagger (khanjar)

Dagger (khanjar)

Date

1650-1700

Object Number

XXVID.145

Provenance

Purchased 1 April 1990.

Physical Description

The blade is of crucible steel (often referred to as 'watered steel' or 'wootz'). It is double edged and recurved, with a reinforced point and a medial rib terminating in a lotus bud finial at the forte.

The hilt is of a mottled dark green hardstone, probably serpentine, with bold flecks lending a striking appearance. It is carved in the form of a horse's head. The carving is sensitive, drawing out the realistic form of a fiery, spirited horse with an arched neck, flaring nostrils and ears laid back slightly. The neck of the horse has been moulded to provide a grip for the fingers, and broadens into a lobed guard decorated with delicate floral motifs executed in relief.

The associated scabbard is modern. It is of wood covered with red fabric, with a copper alloy locket and chape.

Featured in

Materials

Dimensions

BladeLength268 mm
OverallLength440 mm
DaggerWeight0.496 kg

Component parts

Inscriptions and Marks

None visible.

Bibliographic References

Paris, Gallerie ART, Splendeur des armes orientales, Paris, 1988, no. 166, p. 186.

Thom Richardson, An introduction to Indian arms and armour, Leeds, Royal Armouries, 2007: 16

Islamic Arms and Armour

Indian Arms and Armour

Notes

This khanjar belongs to a large group of Mughal daggers with animal headed hilts. Most of these hilts are of jade, rock crystal or agate; this is the only example known to be recorded with such a hilt carved from serpentine. The flair for naturalism that this hilt exhibits implies that it dates to the late 17th century or earlier, when Mughal artists were celebrated for making intensive studies of nature and achieved an astonishing quality of realism in their work. For objects which exemplify the skill put into zoomorphic hilts and handles during this period, see: a 17th century dagger at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with a hilt carved in the shape of a nilgai, accession number 1985.58a, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/453253, a dagger with a goat or ram’s head hilt in the Clive Collection at Powis Castle, cat. no 17, pp.41-42 (photographed on p.51) in Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle (London: The Herbert Press in association with the National Trust, 1987); the famous wine cup of Shah Jahan dated to 1067 AH/AD 1657 held at the V&A, accession number IS 12-1962, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O73769/wine-cup-of-shah-jahan-wine-cup-unknown/. Up to and including the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707), dagger hilts reached a pinnacle of craftsmanship. Aurangzeb pursued a more ascetic approach to the arts than his predecessors, but his experience as a soldier and his active participation in campaigns meant that he continued to be interested in beautiful weapons. After this time the affinity with the subject of inspiration diminished and the general output became more stylised and rudimentary in character.

Thumbnail image of Dagger (khanjar) With a blade of crucible steel and a hilt of boldly flecked serpentine hardstone, realistically carved in the shape of a horse's head.
Thumbnail image of Dagger (khanjar) With a blade of crucible steel and a hilt of boldly flecked serpentine hardstone, realistically carved in the shape of a horse's head.
Thumbnail image of Dagger (khanjar) With a blade of crucible steel and a hilt of boldly flecked serpentine hardstone, realistically carved in the shape of a horse's head.
Thumbnail image of Dagger (khanjar) With a blade of crucible steel and a hilt of boldly flecked serpentine hardstone, realistically carved in the shape of a horse's head.
Thumbnail image of Dagger (khanjar) With a blade of crucible steel and a hilt of boldly flecked serpentine hardstone, realistically carved in the shape of a horse's head.