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Dagger

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal Empire (made)

  • Date:

    c. 1650 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watered and chiselled steel, overlaid with gold

  • Museum number:

    IS.56-1985

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case CA1

This form of punch dagger was found all over India for centuries, and its precise origin is unknown. It is made of watered steel, and its hilt is overlaid with gold. The chiselled elephant-head on both sides of the blade at the forte is overlaid with gold on a cross-hatched ground to indicate trappings. There are traces of gold overlay on the baluster-shaped grips of the hilt, and residual sheet silver on the sides. The style of the elephant head relates to depictions of elephants in Mughal paintings of about 1650, and the dagger was presumably made in one of the weapon manufacturing centres of the Mughal empire at about this time.

Physical description

The steel blade has a broad armour-piercing tip and a low, rounded central rib. A line of gold inlay marks the division between the watered central section and the bevelled, sharpened and polished edges. An elephant head, seen in profile, is chiselled in low relief at the forte on each side. Trappings are indicated by gold overlay on a cross-hatched ground. The hilt with straight sides has two baluster-shaped grips, ending on both sides in elements chiselled with lotus petals. Traces of gold overlay are visible on these sections, and there are vestiges of silver leaf on the baluster grips and lower section of the guard.

Place of Origin

Mughal Empire (made)

Date

c. 1650 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Watered and chiselled steel, overlaid with gold

Dimensions

Length: 45 cm, Depth: 1.1 cm armour piercing point, Depth: 0.9 cm base of side guards - measurement increases to 1.2 cm at the top, away from the blade., Width: 8.6 cm the lower part of the side guards, across the elephant head

Object history note

Bought from the London based dealer, Mark Zebrowski, in 1985.

Descriptive line

Punch dagger (katar) Steel, traces of gold inlay and silver overlay, the watered blade chiselled. Mughal, c. 1650

Production Note

The elephant heads chiselled on both sides of the dagger relate closely to the depiction of a royal elephant in a painting now in the Rietberg Museum (see Helmut Brinker and Eberhard Fischer, Treasures from the Rietberg Museum, The Asia Society, New York, 1980, p. 26 (colour illustration) and cat. 16 pp. 54-55). The painting forms the left half of what must originally have been a double page composition depicting the reception of a foreign embassy at the Mughal court, perhaps made to illustrate a history of Shah Jahan's reign. Only the head of the elephant head is included, as is the case with the dagger, and its trunk curls in a precisely similar way. This association with an imperial painting, together with its high quality, suggests that the dagger was produced in a Mughal court workshop.

Materials

Watered steel; Gold

Techniques

Overlay; Chiselled

Subjects depicted

Elephant

Categories

Arms & Armour

Production Type

Unique

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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