Place of Origin: AFGHANISTAN
Date: Late 19th - Early 20th Century
Overall: 115mm (4 ¾ inches)
This rare and unusual object would have been set at the end of a rifle and pressed firmly into the marksman’s firing shoulder to keep the gun steady and to allow safe absorption of the shot’s recoil.
The ebony butt is of mostly cylindrical section, inlaid firstly with a band of ivory quatrefoils (the outlines painted in black) which are enclosed above and below by thin brass bands. The main section then is inlaid with alternating vertical stripes of the dark wood and ivory, each separated again by brass lines and secured with a rivet at each end.
The label attached to the rifle’s butt gives us some clue as to its origins, reading in Persian first “Written in gold, the work of Ustad Nur Muhammad” together with a few other words which remain legible: “silver (…) ebony (…) flint” as well as siyaq/raqam numerals which presumably indicate the amount of each material used by the gunmaker. It may be the case, then, that this piece was a workshop template or sample, shown to both prospective customers and craftsmen.
A near-identical piece to the present example, likely made by the same craftsman, can be seen on a rifle sold by Christie’s in 2012 (Lot 342). This rifle was gifted by Habibullah Khan Amir of Afghanistan to a Nur Muhammad, a local leader in the Nejrabi district, in a bid to secure his support for Habibullah Khan as Amir.