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TIBETAN SWORD

Place of Origin: TIBET

Date: 18th - 19th Century

Overall Length: 970mm (38 ¼ Inches)

Reference: 342

Status: Available

Full Description:

With its trefoil pommel and wire-bound grip, this Tibetan sword offers a strong example of the type discussed by LaRocca.[1] But the trilobed guard is of particular interest for the similarities it bears to a rare sword (Acc. No. 1995.136) preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which depicts an anthropomorphic visage over its own guard, likely representing the face of a “protective deity or guardian figure.”[2] The present hilt marks a well-preserved relation to this rare type of sword-guard.

Gilt-copper alloy has been applied to the pommel and embossed with symmetrical scrollwork on a punched ground, a coral bead inset at the centre and a ring attached to the reverse face which holds a knotted cord of red and gold fabric (rarely extant in such swords). The hilt’s collar and guard are decorated en suite – the latter fitted with a large centrally mounted turquoise – and the wooden grip is bound with silver wire.

The single-edged blade is forged with an oblique tip and its surface exhibits traces of the hairpin pattern (thur), the result of a well-known Tibetan forging technique whereby alternating folded rods of hard and soft iron are combined with the aim of creating a blade that is both strong and flexible. The sword is complete with its scabbard, the greater part of which is covered with a leather likely made from the belly of an ass and dyed with a dark-green pigment (faded in places). The chape and locket are decorated with the same motifs as the hilt-mounts, the former inset with a large coral and both cut with an inverted ogee that contains a stylised lotus in bloom at its centre.

Within the selection of swords discussed by LaRocca in the work cited above, perhaps the most relevant comparandum is a sword (IM.218-1927) preserved at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which exhibits the same symmetrical scroll motifs in its silver hilt and scabbard mounts.[3]

Provenance

Private Australian collection


[1] Donald LaRocca, Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006, pp. 157-163.

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