Shamshir with extremely rare laddered blade
Place of Origin: Ottoman Turkey
Date: Early 19th Century
This Ottoman shamshir is of very fine quality indeed and possesses a wootz steel blade of a rare and exceptional type. Wootz blades are sought after the world over, with the most popular type being Indian and Persian and having the so-called Mohammed’s ladder (or kirk narduban) pattern, whereby approximately forty (on a sword) linear distortions are visible within the swirling crystalline structure. Only on extremely rare occasions do blades turn up with variations of the Mohammed’s ladder pattern—and this is one of those occasions—because this example, probably imported from Persia, shows its ladder’s rungs are connected with alternating diagonal lines: a exciting variant not published or known widely. There were none of this kind in the encyclopedic collection of wootz swords owned by Dr Leo Figiel which went to auction in 1998 (1). Figiel, in his 1991 study of wootz entitled On Damascus Steel, suggested that the use of a Mohammed’s ladder sword during a holy war would ensure entry to paradise. This further explains the high value placed upon these blades when they were made.
This sword’s grips were sculpted expertly from rhino horn before being polished and fitted to a wootz steel hilt that is adorned all over with a leafy design picked out with gold inlay. Not to be left out, the scabbard’s mounts are also made from wootz, the gold decorations mirroring that found in the hilt. The leather covering, with its steel stitching, is typical of those paired with the Ottoman swords of this period. This is an exquisite, interesting sword in a state of superb preservation.
Provenance: European private collection.
(1) Butterfield & Butterfield, The Dr. Leo S. Figiel Collection of Mogul Arms, 1998.