Dagger with Sheath

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

About the work

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This dagger has two distinct stylistic elements that associate it with 17th-century weapon-making. First, the gem-studded jade hilt comes from a Mughal chilanum. “Chilanum” is the English collectors’ term, likely derived from an Indian term, for a group of daggers with flaring, decorative pommels (the curve at the end of the hilt). They originated in the Deccan region of India. The blade, meanwhile, has a cutout in the middle. This style was popular across Central and South Asia starting from the 16th century. The swordsmith placed a wire from the hilt down the center of the cutout, where they strung six polished ruby and emerald beads. Art historians have identified pierced blades of this type across Asia. They are not sure whether there was one center of craftsmanship that produced most of these blades, or whether swordsmiths across Asia imitated the style. This example comes from either Turkey or India—a testament to how far swords traveled.

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