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Inventory

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A LARGE BOW

Place of Origin: NORTH INDIA

Date: 17th / 18th Century

Overall: 930mm (36 ½ inches)

Reference: 295

Status: Reserved

Full Description:

This enormous bow measures just under a metre in overall length and 42mm at the widest point of the arms, suggesting this would have been a powerful warbow capable of delivering arrows with high speed and impact.

Made of buffalo horn, sinew, and wood (mango or rain tree) glued together, and then lacquered in a variety of vibrant colours: the central grip is painted with gold flowers on a red ground; a dark-green ground underlies the row of lotus flowers further along either side of the centre; and the ends are painted with red flowers on silver and gold. ‘Kaman’ bows – a Mughal type closely related to our own example – are often known as ‘reflex bows’ due to the bend that commonly afflicts their form when unstrung, but this example, perhaps owing to its sheer size, has fully resisted any such contortion. Both nocks, around which the bowstring would be wrapped, are also extant – a rarity in such weapons.

Hidayat-al-rami (‘Guide for Archers’) by Muhammad Buddah’I dated 1134 AH (1722) in the British Library (14143, ff.6v-7), reproduced in the book ‘The Mughals, Life, Art and Culture’ (p.54-55), shows detailed colour paintings of five methods for stringing a recurved Mughal bow.

Precise comparanda are difficult to come by in this case, though an example preserved at the Royal Armouries (Object Number XXVIB.8)[1] shows a similar form and shape to our own. According to Hewitts (1859), it was a gift from the East India Company to the Royal Armouries from Gwalior, Northern India.[2] Another bow exhibited by Runjeet Singh in Arms & Armour from the East 2015 (Ref. No. 036) is also related to the present example in its form and origin.

 

[2] J. Hewitt, Official Catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859, No. xv2, p. 93.