Kastane for comments
How many faces are there ?
Has anyone ever seen one like this before ?
Does anyone have any ideas about the faces and their meanings ?
All comments welcome.
I have only had 3 of these over the years and they are not really my field, but this one is so bizzar I had to buy it.
I have never seen an example such as this before .
Cast hilt ?
Human face ?
New to my experience . :)
Could this be a repro; or a true variant ? :confused:
Either way, super sword ! :)
Very unusual. The 'human' face almaost looks medieval european influenced.
I've never seen one like it, a nice find for sure. Well spotted!
Hi Royston, nice find :)
I hope Artzi doesn't mind, but found these images, not exactly the same, no human head but overall quite similar. What are the dimensions of the blade and do you think it is functional. The reason I ask is that awhile ago I found a Kastane hilted straight bladed example...which turned out to be a 'popular', suitably exotic looking sword ..often used by belly dancers :cool: (belly dancers ...not the sword ;) )
The European (looking) head is very interesting, and I hope that your example is indeed, old and not a 'copy', I have seen a couple that were Victorian wall-hangers...but the blades were just for show.
Kind Regards David
This maybe 'way off base', but the European looking head has the look of a death mask. Investigating the early history of the the Europeans entering Ceylon, I found this...
".......On 21 August 1630, the Portuguese began the march to return to Colombo but were attacked by the Kandyan army at Vellavaya. Most of the Lascarins betrayed the Portuguese – only 500 remained loyal – and joined the enemy. For the Kandyans this was an overwhelming victory: of the Portuguese expedition, only 130 men survived and surrendered. The captain General Dom Constantino de Sá y Noronha was captured and beheaded. His head was carried by Prince Mahastana (later crowned Rajasimha IIEmperor of Ceylon) and presented to the Emperor Senerat......"
Could the 'head' be a symbolic reminder of this event...I wonder :shrug: I have not been able to find an image of General Dom Constantino de Sá y Noronha to help / disprove this theory.
This really is an interesting piece! and actually it is not a 'kastane' (the word derives from the Portuguese term for a decorative walking stick) but an 'interpretation' of one. The Sinhalese kastane seems to be primarily an 18th century form, though the earliest example of the well established hilt form appears to have been in the early 17th century. The ancestry for the motif on these hilts seem to derive from Hindu iconography figures, the figure on the pommel of course the Sinha (=lion) while on quillons are makaras.
Most examples of kastanes have the distinct hilt with quillon system that is believed to derive from those of Arabian nimcha type hilts, which in turn likely were influenced by early Venetian types.
This piece appears to have some sound evidence of age, and reminds me of the old chestnut; "a camel is actually a horse designed by a committee" :)
The hilt shows all of the correct features incorporated in the typical kastane hilts, however the arrangement is incongruent. The inner vestigial quillons on this interpretation are placed entirely below the upper quillon, and the extended rouded langet has nothing to do with the usual triangular type seen on normal kastanes.
Most interesting of all is the face incorporated into the knuckleguard, which does distinctly show European influence, in recalling the faces typically seen in the man in the moon face seen inscribed on European trade blades. These moon and sun faces are of course cabbalist symbols reflected on many 18th century blades with talismanic/quality implications.
The scabbards on this, as well as on the example Katana has posted seem to reflect the pierced and repousse work seen on sword mountings of the 18th to early 19th century in Hyderabad for export to Arab markets (see "Arms and Armour of Arabia" Elgood, which shows these, many with piercing and brass of 19th century), and the figure at the scabbard tip reminiscent of Ottoman scabbards as well as the thum on Omani janbiyya.
I'm unclear on the unusual blade shape on this, but seems to concur, at least in age estimation, from what I can see, probably 19th century. This seems to be something more intended for presentation or award, and while it would be difficult to place geographically by form, it seems to have been created in that period entering the complex trade networks from SE Asia, India and Arabia.
Extremely nice example, and though not a kastane variant, a very attractive piece. Its a great anomaly, just like I like 'em!!
Is that so Jim? Can you give a track on the Portuguese word ? I just don't get it :confused:
The ricasso and the down turned quillons in Ceylon swords ... weren't they influenced by Portuguese :o
Sorry for my ignorance ... and impertinence.
I suppose its too much to hope for that there are any marks on the blade?
It also has a Euro feel to me.
Reminds me of small hunting hangers.
I know its grasping at straws, but I was wondering if a local craftsman rehilted a European blade and retained a representation of an original decorative element.
Could it come from "castão" ? The ornamental top of walking canes and other utensiles ? :shrug:
Very nice find. The huge majority of kastane have never appealed to me, but I really like this one! Artzi's piece secondly. Like yours better.
I AM CERTIANLY NO EXPERT ON THESE SWORDS BUT HAVE LOOKED AT QUITE A FEW OVER THE LAST 40 YEARS OR SO. I HAVE NOT SEEN ANY LIKE THESE TWO EXAMPLES WHICH ARE CAST BRASS AND HAVE BRASS SCABBARDS AND CLEAN BLADES. I SUSPECT THEY ARE MORE RECENT ITEMS MADE FOR PARADE OR CEREMONIAL DRESS OR PRESENTATION OR POSSIBLY A HIGH END SOUVINEER. AT A GUESS NO OLDER THAN 1970'S :shrug: PERHAPS WE HAVE A MEMBER FROM SIRI LANKA WHO CAN GIVE US BETTER INFORMATION.??
THE REASONS I SUSPECT THIS IS.
MOST OF THE OLD EXAMPLES DO NOT HAVE SCABBARDS ,BECAUSE THEY WERE VERY THIN WOOD WITH VERY FANCY HAND WORKED SILVER TIPS, FITTINGS AND THROATS AND WERE VERY FRAGILE ESPECIALLY WITH AGE.
THE BLADES WERE ALL IN VERY DARK PATINA AND IN POOR SHAPE.
THE HANDLES WERE VERY OLD MATERIAL LIKE THAT USED ON MOST PHIA KATTA AND SILVER AND GOLD DECORATION WAS USUALLY APPLIED ON GOOD OLD EXAMPLES.
WHILE THESE EXAMPLES ARE VERY ATTRACTIVE THE WORKMANSHIP AND MATERIAL THAT WENT INTO THEIR MAKING IS VERY POOR COMPARED TO THE GOOD OLD EXAMPLES. THEY WOULD BE A LOT FASTER AND EASIER TO PRODUCE THAN THE OLD CRAFTSMAN'S WORK BUT NOT UP TO THE QUALITY.
ON A POSITIVE NOTE THEY WOULD BE MUCH STURDIER THAN THE OLD ONES AND THE SOLID BRASS OR BRONZE WILL HOLD UP A LOT LONGER AND BE LESS EASILY DAMMAGED THAN THE OLD MATERIALS. :cool:
Thank you so much Fernando for reading my post! You know how rusty I am at Portuguese :) but the 'castao' term was the one I saw, and havent found my notes yet, otherwise I could have cited the reference.
Sure, the hilt form could have come from the Portuguese swords, which in turn had the same arrangement as the Italian swords of end of 15th century, which influenced the Moroccan nimchas in the Meditteranean trade in the 17th century. It would be difficult to determine a line of progressive diffusion of this quillon arrangement, though the Portuguese colonization throughout the many coastal regions of Africa, India, China is well established. The Arab trade is equally well known, and Ceylon was the Serandib of Arabian lore.
It seems that Italian sword and blade manufacture was the origin of considerable developing influence on sword centers in Iberia, Black Sea regions, Africa, India over quite a period . For some reason I feel more inclined to think that the exporting of Italian products and smiths in many cases led to influencing the regions receiving them than the other way around, although reciprocal diffusion over time would be expected in degree.
We know that swordmaking in Europe was centralized in early times pretty much in Frankish regions, then with Celtibereans , but with the Renaissance came also fashion accompanying the use of the sword. With Italy holding resounding prominence in that period, as well as the prevailing trade of Venice and Genoa,and the influences of these city states spread accordingly.
Perhaps the Portuguese term said to be etymologically at the root of the term 'kastane' would add credence to the Portuguese weapons influencing the Sinhalese to fashion the swords of thier notables with similar hilt arrangement. The same arrangement appears on early Dutch hangers, and we know they were in the neighborhood, just as the Arabs, Venetians, Chinese and others. All of these powers were keenly in business in some degree with Ceylon exporting the valuable steel produced there, so it would be difficult to say which held the credit for influencing the first prototype.
Vandoo offers some pretty good reasoning there, and I would go along with a presentation or gift type item, but this seems older than 30 + years, hard to say from pictures.
I'd like to hear some other views on kastane's and thier origin. What I would really like to see is some examples with VOC blades, as discussed many times over the years. My research turned up early 17th century for earliest examples of this hilt.....anybody have other ideas?
What is the symbolism of the Sinha and Makara in terms of the Sinhalese perspective? Most examples seem 18th century, anybody have 19th century examples out there?
David, I once again have to say I really like the way you think !! Its great to see this kind of deductive reasoning, regardless of whether it proves to be correct or not, and I like the idea you put it out there anyway.
The idea of the death mask has been around for a while, naturally with the English mortuary swords, said to carry the death mask of Charles I. In recent years it seems that that theory has been disproven as examples antedating the event of his execution were found, regardless, the idea remained in folklore as does the term 'mortuary sword' for the form.
In looking at this hilt I still see the 'man in the moon' face seen on so many trade blades, but it seems odd that this would be fashioned into this oddly arranged hilt.
Atlantia, I see you too have joined us in abstract thinking, which I think is the most fun in studying these weapons! Very good thought on the European blade, as we know refashioning these trade blades was quite often done. As a note relating to my man in the moon observation, the 18th century hunting hangers were a primary source for those cabalistic markings.
Its absolutely OK to grasp at straws!!! something I'm considering for my Ph.D!!! :) Thanks for gettin' out there with us. It often leads to 'discussion', which is as far as I know, why we're here.
Thanks to everyone for their comments. I did not think this item would cause so much discussion.
I have owned it for a while now but know nothing of it's history as I bought it from a West Country dealer who claimed it came from a house clearance.
I can't get to grips with the " Quote " parts of the replies but to answer some of your questions:-
Katana, I'm not at home at the moment and did not bring the dimensions with me but the blade is approximately 14" long. As to it being functional, I have feeler gauges that are probably thicker !!!
As I said, I have only owned 3 of these. I have seen a few more but never one that I would have considered a practical sword. Has anyone else ?
Atlantia - Sorry but there are no markings on the blade.
Jim - So, if you do not call it a Kastane, what should it be called ?
I agree with you that it has some age but I would not like to say how much. The general appearance and "feel" of the item suggest older than 1970's as Vandoo suggests but I cannot varify this.
The comments that both yourself and Vandoo make about " Presentation " " Parade ", "Ceremonial " and " High-end Souvenir" all have a ring of truth about them.
I suppose one of the mistakes we must all try and avoid is NOT to get disappointed ( or even annoyed ) when someone suggests that one of our favourite items could possible be - dare I use the word ? A Souvenir.
I am sure that a lot of collected weapons were picked up years ago and bought home as souvenirs.
( By the way Vandoo - I really like the prefix "High-end" it sounds very diplomatic :D )
The hilt is solid cast brass. I had not really thought about the relative positions of the quillons so thanks for that Jim.
As to the man in the moon. I think this is the most fascinating part of the sword. It's the main reason that I bought it.
It certainly looks to me to be a copy of the blade marks in other weapons. Perhaps whoever made the blank for casting just liked the look of it ?
Again, thanks to everyone who replied.
I’m new to the list, but coming from Sri Lanka and for long involved in the study of Sinhala weapons I may be able to add to the discussion.
I am sorry to disappoint you Royston but this piece is definitely a replica like many that are being regularly made by the “antique shops” in the South of Sri Lanka. The brass hilt with a single piece molding for quillons and guards, the low quality blade and blade being fitted to the hilt with rivets are dead giveaways. and I would not be surprised if the blade rattles on the hilt when shaken. this is a recent mass produced item most probably from a antique dealer in Hikkaduwa or benthota towns.
The origins of the “Kastana” sword can be traced reliably to early 16th century and may even go back as far as late 14th century. The Portuguese influence in the name is a good possibility as this was the time of the wars with the Portuguese in Sri Lanka.
There is an old saying
"All things come to those that wait "
Well, 3 years since my original post and now I have an answer.
Thank you very much
ITS GOOD TO HAVE A MEMBER FROM SIRI LANKA/CEYLON AS EXPERTESE IN THE AREA HAS BEEN LACKING. WELCOME :D
THE DESIGN HAS BEEN BORROWED BY OTHER COUNTRYS AND NO DOUBT THERE ARE SOUTHERN INDIAN VERSIONS AS WELL AS GERMAN AND DUTCH, ECT. I WILL THROW A FEW PICTURES INTO THE MIX FOR REFRENCE.
1&2 GOOD OLD EXAMPLES
3 & 4 ODD ONE EITHER EUROPEANIZED VERSION OR PERHAPS THAILAND
5 & 6. GERMAN SWORD SHOWING INFLUENCE
7 & 8 SILVER WITH GOLD AND A COMPLETE SCABBARD, LIKELY MADE DURING THE EUROPEAN RULE.
ANY COMENTS OR OBSERVATIONS MOST WELCOME. :)
Nice collection Vandoo thanks again.
The first two with wooden hilts seem to have been put to some use compared to the last which would more likely been a ceremonial / rank weapon.
Including a few images of an interesting kasthane, this weapon was gifted by king Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe to a chieftain of the Mukkara clan; the Mukkara was a clan of silversmiths but the sword was gifted in honor of guarding a water supply during the war with the Dutch East India company. The sword is well crafted and contain several interesting additions. there is a leopard tooth set in place of a crest between the ears of the lion head. and a peacock motif below the Makara head on the guard is possibly a clan sign as one of the three flags gifted along with the sword is also a Peacock flag. The third interesting and unusual embellishment to the sword is that it contains a figure of a goddess at the base of the guard.
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