Place of Origin: CEYLON (SRI LANKA)
Date: 18th Century
A Kandyan knife (or piha-kaetta) of outstanding quality, showing intricate silverwork and careful construction.
The horn grip scales of the hilt are carved throughout with a dense variety of patterns comprising liya-pata (the elongating scrolls which issue from the pommel and the edges of the scales) and further floral motifs. A silver plaque at the mid-point on each face is chased to depict a stylised flowerhead – the head of the rivet used to secure the scales to the tang of the blade charmingly disguised as the flower’s ‘centre’. The silver pommel-cap is chased with a fine array of scrolling foliage and fitted with a spirally fluted spherical tang finial, the wide silver edges of the hilt cut with a line of ridges which help to accommodate the protruding scrolls of the liya-pata carving.
The blade’s bolster is chased with further liya-pata motifs enclosed within dotted borders and other foliate decoration in close detail. This bolster extends to encase the thick back-edge of the blade in silver and shows a liya-vela motif (a Singhalese decorative pattern which comprises a repeating arrangement of flowers and foliage), before the slender steel spine of the blade emerges and continues to form an acute and very gently recurved point.
The blade is complete with its silver-covered and fluted wooden scabbard, the slender sunken lines running across its surface before they taper into a chape of liya-pata style. The throat-piece has been designed separately and detaches from the rest of the scabbard, exhibiting a tight series of bead-bordered bands which are chased with various motifs: geometric designs and further instances of liya-vela as on the back-edge of the knife’s bolster.
A similar example to our own is published in Treasures from India (The Clive Collection at Powis Castle), exhibiting the same careful work applied to the throat-piece of the scabbard which, like ours, attaches separately.
The dagger was sold by the respected Asian art dealer Gisèle Croës on the 17th August 1977, the original bill of sale accompanies the dagger.
 Mildred Archer, Christopher Rowell & Robert Skelton, Treasures from India (The Clive Collection at Powis Castle), Herbert Press / National Trust, 1987, p. 44, No. 25. See also: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1180577.1