Place of Origin: TURKEY (OTTOMAN EMPIRE)
Date: 18th - 19th Century
Overall Length: 197mm (7 ¾ Inches)
This remarkable knife brilliantly exemplifies the artistry so often applied to exceptional pieces of arms and armour, its scabbard proficiently decorated throughout with roundels in a dazzling array of colours and patterns.
The hilt is formed of a faceted blue glass, while the blade of steel exhibits faux-watering and is inset with beads of coral at three equidistant slots just beneath the spine. The surface of the blade has also been etched over the greater part of its length with an inscription on one face with a part of the Nada ‘Ali quatrain and on the other with “… Muluk (?) sultan malik tahir (?)” (“… of Kings (?), Sultan Malik Tahir (?)”) among vine tendrils that exhibit remnants of the original gilding. Gilt stellar motifs also line the spine of the blade.
The ivory scabbard is inset with a generous array of khatamkari roundels depicting celestial motifs with gems, mother-of-pearl and various metals. Of particular splendour are the ebony tesserae, which are overlaid with pointed stars in gold, some of the larger examples decorated at their centres with an inset turquoise or gold concentric circles. The craftsman has expended great efforts to ensure almost no space is left unfilled, inviting us to inspect the scabbard’s surface as we might survey a busy night-sky. It is interesting to note, too, that the central roundel of the front face is decorated on a shimmering white ground in mother-of-pearl, whilst that on the reverse is black (ebony), as if the front and reverse of the scabbard signified the day and night skies respectively. The scabbard’s gilt-silver collar and chape are punched and chased to depict stylised leaves and roundels in imitation of the scabbard’s central surface, and are further inset with small turquoises as well as coloured gem stones, the chape terminating in a cross-hatched acorn finial.
A miniature sword in the Walters Art Museum (Accession No.51.79) exhibits a similar sequence of insets along the back-edge of its blade.
UK art market