Place of Origin: MIDDLE EAST
Date: 19th Century
This dagger is particularly interesting for its unusual amalgamation of features which seem to suggest mixed origins of manufacture and decorative style.
Beginning with the hilt, we can see that it shows the characteristic ‘I-shaped’ form of other Arab jambiya, and much of the decoration is clearly related to examples from the Middle East: beaded lines and vertical rows of silver circles feature prominently on the hilt’s decoration, particularly at the grip, and are likely intended to imitate the roundels or studs that appear on other Arab jambiya. And yet other silverwork on the hilt is strongly suggestive of Indo-Persian influence: the sloping triangular panels on the pommel and just before the collar of the hilt, for example, are each filled with an arrangement of flowers amidst centrally whirling vine tendrils and leaves – the flowers’ centres engraved with the type of cross-hatched lines that are reminiscent of this preparation in koftgari work.
The double-edged Persian blade is of high quality, exhibiting an undulating watered pattern on its surface and cut with a pronounced medial ridge, though the scabbard’s mounts continue to make a single geographic attribution difficult. Silver filigree and borders formed of beaded lines suggest Middle Eastern origins, as well as the eyelets diagonally attached to the scabbard’s sides, which indicate that the dagger was suspended with a horizontal belt, a method most frequently employed for Arab jambiya types. But as on the hilt, there are those aspects of the decoration which are clearly Indo-Persian in style, particularly with regards to the panel of flowers that sits between the eyelets, as well as that which extends towards the scabbard’s thum (another typical feature of Arab jambiya) which contains a sequence of lotuses that become smaller as the panel tapers. The engraved lotushead that sits atop the end of each panel is furthermore undeniably reminiscent of Indo-Persian decoration.
A dagger that shows a similar combination of influences to our own – particularly with reference to the panels of floral decoration on the hilt and scabbard – is preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession Number 36.25.1052a, b) and also published in Ravinder Reddy, Arms & Armour of India, Nepal & Sri Lanka: Types, Decoration and Symbolism, London, 2018, p. 309.