Nasrid Style “Ear” Dagger
Place of Origin: Spain
Date: 19th Century
Overall length: 350mm
Blade length: 210mm
A scarce Nasrid style ear-dagger, Spain, 19th Century.
A heavy straight blade, with a long flat 5cm spine on one side, and a shorter 2cm ricasso on the other. The blade forte is flat, and the blade ground into a flattened diamond section. The forte and grip strap are richly decorated with fine gold damascene koftgari in the form of cartouches containing pseudo-calligraphic inscriptions in loose foliated kufic script, and panels of scrolling leafy tendrils.
The hilt is made up of elephant ivory grip scales, engraved with geometric motifs and quatrefoils, pinned with brass rivets, and the large circular ears plaques having small panels of carved inscriptions. Both ears have small gilt-iron pommel caps. Overall a deep yellow glossy patina to the ivory.
Laking¹ notes that Italy, with its port of Venice, and Spain, appear to have been the districts in which these Ear-daggers were fashionable in the latter part of the 15th Century, due to its heavy contact with the Orient. He also comments that fine and splendidly-enriched examples exist in public and private collections; however, I think it is safe for us to presume that most existing examples are already known, and few are left to be discovered, for this reason, the high quality example shown here is an exciting discovery.
Also of important note is a portrait of a young Edward VI, now in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, clutching a dagger of this type at his waist, see Laking (P.56, fig.836).
The dagger takes clear influence from the famous Nasrid period ear dagger in the Real Armeria, Madrid No.G361 (Laking, p.290-3) which is associated with Muhammed XII (called Boabdil) and the battle of Lucena in 888 AH/1483 AD.
Two similar daggers exist in the collection of the late Signor Ressman, now in the Bargello Museum, Florance see Lakin¹ (Fig. 828b & 828d). These daggers are decorated in a similar way, with very fine damascene koftgari, and the grip scales being carved in the same 'Hispano-Arabian manner' (Laking, p.54).
The Arabic and Latin inscriptions may be unreadable. Pseudo-inscriptions exist on the famous Nasrid period gilt parade helmet which is set with enamel devices in the Metropolitan Museum, New York No.1883.413 (see J.D. Dodds 1992, pp.294-5).