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Old 18th November 2016, 01:51 PM   #1
Likhari
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Default Carved ivory handles on Indian edged weapons

As this is my first post, at the outset, I must introduce myself. I was born and raised in India but currently reside in the US. I am a descendent of Sikh warriors who were renowned for their sword fighting skills and I cut people daily for a living (as a surgeon); hence my interest in edged weapons.

I have followed this forum for the last few years and have been much impressed by the percipient Rand Milam, the insightful Jens Nordlunde, the erudite Oliver Pinchot, the contentious but always entertaining Ariel Barkan, the resourceful Ibrahiim al Balooshi, and the sagacious Jim McDougall. May they long continue to enlighten us in this our shared passion.

Carved ivory handles are quite common on Persian edged weapons but I have come across several interesting Indian swords and daggers with intricately sculpted handles.

Rober Hales in his gorgeous book Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion illustrates several beautiful handles and has one right on the cover.

Here are some examples from the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay, Oriental Arms, and my personal collection.
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Old 18th November 2016, 06:07 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum and thank you for the photos!

Never seen a Tulwar hilt made of Ivory. Or is it something else?

The second one doesn't seem to be ivory?!?
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Old 18th November 2016, 06:13 PM   #3
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The finely carved ivory handle on the sword seems to be very dark, the guard also seems darkened. In old collections you sometimes see the use of shellack as a protective covering and over years it can turn very dark. Is there any chance the ivory handle was covered with shellack that has turned dark?

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Old 18th November 2016, 10:46 PM   #4
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Фото 1 имеет много общего с этой темой

Photo 1 has a lot to do with this topic:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...highlight=Ariel
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Old 19th November 2016, 12:47 AM   #5
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The astute Mr. Milam is right as always !

This sword is in my collection. The handle is indeed ivory and it is covered with shellac that has darkened over the years.
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Old 19th November 2016, 08:26 AM   #6
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NAMASTE
GREETINGS FROM NEW ZEALAND LIKHARI,NICE SWORD,THE NAMES YOU MENTIONED ARE GREAT EXPERTS,I ALWAYS FOLLOW THEM TOO
BEST REGARDS RAJESH
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Old 19th November 2016, 01:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Likhari
The astute Mr. Milam is right as always !

This sword is in my collection. The handle is indeed ivory and it is covered with shellac that has darkened over the years.



Excellent workmanship! Can I see the whole sword please... so I can envy you more?!

The double horse is also yours? What is it?
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Old 19th November 2016, 03:01 PM   #8
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Here are some more examples. Some from Sotheby's.

The interesting elephant head handle would of course have been attached to a tulwar blade that would have been used as a sword worn to the royal court instead of a true battle sword as it would be too delicate for any rough use.
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Old 19th November 2016, 03:26 PM   #9
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Welcome to the forum Likhari, and thank you for your kind words.

Like Marius mendtions, it would be nice to see, not only details of your weapons, but the whole weapons as well. I fact there is a rule on the forum, that no details should be discussed, before the whole weapon have been shown.
I know the rule is not always followed, but I think it is a good rule.

I have only one dagger with an ivory hilt, with an animal head, and the blade is not Indian, but more likely South Asian. See catalogue pp. 61-62 for further informations.
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Old 19th November 2016, 05:30 PM   #10
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The two horse handle belongs to a sword in the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay photographed by Moin.

What is very interesting about this sword is the fact that it combines an iconographic representation of Nandaka (The Hindu God Vishnu) on the handle with an etching of what looks like the Ayatul Kursi in Arabic on the blade. Possibly a reuse of the blade but all the same it does show the composite culture of the Indian Subcontinent and represents exactly what makes the study of Arms and Armour so fascinating to me.
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Old 19th November 2016, 08:15 PM   #11
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Yes it is interesting, but from where does the museum says it origins, and how old do they think it is?

You see, here on the forum we are all 'pupils', all of us try to learn something from each other, so it is important that all information's are told, or it would leed to very long discussions.

So please 'paint' it all out in details.

Jens
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Old 20th November 2016, 06:33 AM   #12
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Have you ever been inside an Indian museum Jens ? If you had been you would know that the provenance and period is not usually available for arms at such institutions.

I have painted the best picture I could with my meagre intelligence. Maybe with your abundant knowledge you can add something to the painting.
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Old 20th November 2016, 03:46 PM   #13
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The tiger head motif was quite popular on Indian weapons and had a special significance for Tipu Sultan. Here we have a carved ivory tulwar handle from Sotheby's with a tiger head on the pommel and also on the quillon tips
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Old 20th November 2016, 07:56 PM   #14
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Likhari,
No I have never visited an Indian museum, and I have never been to India.
I have visited many other places, also in the far east, so in a way it is strange that I have chosen to collect Indian weapons, but there are other reasons for why I, almost fifty years ago started to collect Indian weapons.

It is a pity the museums does not give more information's about the exhibited items, as they should have first hand information's - one would think - although I do know that is it not always so.
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Old 21st November 2016, 11:32 PM   #15
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Here is the complete sword for you Marius and Jens !

It is a thorough bastard that was put together probably for a British cavalry officer. The blade is wootz and possible 17th or 18th century. The handle is Indian carved ivory from the early 19th century and the guard is from the British Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre.

A dragoon or hussar office posted in India probably wanted to use a blade that he got as war booty and he had a local craftsman fashion it into a sword that he could wear as part of his uniform. Pure conjecture but it makes for a good story !!
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Old 22nd November 2016, 01:20 AM   #16
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Likhari.
I would like to join in welcoming you to the forum, and thank you for the kind compliments! I am honored to be included with those others you named and we are among many others here who also generously contribute to the enlightenments here.
As Jens has noted, we are all students in our shared fields of study, and here we continue to learn together.

This is a wonderful topic, and you have shared some great examples.
In the initial post, the second photo is an intriguing sword which seems to clearly reflect a British military officers gestalt. The hilt recalls the stirrup hilt forms of M1796 period, with a beautiful custom grip. The koftgari band on the blade is similar to an example I had some time ago.
It was a solid steel Persian style tulwar hilt (shamshir) but with the langets and quillon terminals of the Indo-Persian tulwar hilt.
The blade was that of a British M1788 light cavalry sabre, which had clearly been rehilted and a koftgari panel added at the forte.

These kinds of hybrids seem to have flourished in Deccani regions post Seringapatam and the opening years of the 19th century, and it would seem that perhaps this sword in your photos is another .

The carved ivory dual 'hayamukhi' (horseheads) is most unusual and amazing, and with the forte panel of Islamic script, this blade appears to be one of the well known Persian trade blades of first quarter to mid 19th c.

The carved tulwar hilt in ivory of Indo-Persian style has an interesting blade with all visible the diapered pattern forte.

I think there is so much to be learned from Indian weapons, as they are so deeply imbued with the cultures, religions and traditions of this most fascinating subcontinent. I am very grateful to have you join us here!!

Jim
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Old 22nd November 2016, 12:18 PM   #17
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Default sword

Likhari,

You have a very nice sword that is also in great condition. Have you pondered removing the shellack from the ivory, it could make a very dramatic difference. Have had two pieces in the past that were covered with shellack, coincidently both were from india. And both looked much better after the shellack was taken off.

Also would like to comment on the scabbard. Would think the officer who commissioned this would have had a scabbard with a double hanger in the British 1822 style. Also believe judging from the quality of the sword its scabbard would have been of a higher dress quality equal to the sword.

Really like your sword, the well carved ivory handle along with nicely etched wootz blade topped off with the gold koftgari is a win, win,win.


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Old 22nd November 2016, 12:38 PM   #18
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Default Ivory Handle

Have been thinking about the ivory handle on your sword. Have you entertained the idea that the ivory carving could have been done by a persian artisan? Or do the floral design on the handle look more indian than persain?

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Old 22nd November 2016, 02:31 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rand
Likhari,

Have you pondered removing the shellack from the ivory, it could make a very dramatic difference.


rand



Rand,

how exactly did you removed the shellack? Until now I removed shellack with Aceton or Nitro thinner from steel and silver but I think Aceton or Nitro might be too strong for ivory or wood.

Thank you,
Roland
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Old 22nd November 2016, 03:46 PM   #20
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Default Shellack Removal

Hi Roland,

Has been quite a while since removing shellack off a weapon, but believe I used nail polish remover. Remember it came off quite quickly and the before and after was dramatic. Afterwards I apply japanese choi oil(pure choi oil, no water) in the same manner you would a japanese sword.

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Old 22nd November 2016, 04:18 PM   #21
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Thanks for the warm welcome Jim and also for your excellent comments on the weapons I posted.

Mr. Rand Milam is bang on as always about the scabbard. It is indeed a later addition and in no way matches the quality of the piece. The blade is what got me. It is possibly of Persian origin but the yelman and curvature is more reminiscent of a kilij (Maybe it is Turkish). The ivory handle is carved in low relief that I have seen on Indian Pesh Kabz handles like the one picture below from Bonhams; so I would hazard that it is Indian in origin and as Jim pointed out it is possibly Deccani from the post-Seringapatam period of the early 1800s. The 1796 guard also puts it in the early 1800s.
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Old 22nd November 2016, 05:27 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rand
Likhari,

You have a very nice sword that is also in great condition. Have you pondered removing the shellack from the ivory, it could make a very dramatic difference. Have had two pieces in the past that were covered with shellack, coincidently both were from india. And both looked much better after the shellack was taken off.

Also would like to comment on the scabbard. Would think the officer who commissioned this would have had a scabbard with a double hanger in the British 1822 style. Also believe judging from the quality of the sword its scabbard would have been of a higher dress quality equal to the sword.

Really like your sword, the well carved ivory handle along with nicely etched wootz blade topped off with the gold koftgari is a win, win,win.


rand


I completely agree Rand, that in view of the military regulation features of the guard and langets, it would be presumed that the scabbard would be accordingly two carry ring in the style of British patterns of the time.

The brass mounts are also in accord with British officers sword scabbards of the time (early 19th), however, the langet receiver at the throat is very much aligned as well with swords produced in Hyderabad (many Arabian sa'if).

Post Seringapatam there was powerful celebratory and commemorative activity in many instances, with certain hybridization in weapons and military fashion notwithstanding. In the already considerable native forces in service of the EIC there were of course many native officers who very much aligned with British regulation arms fitted presumably with their own blades.

While by the same token British officers adopted native style fashions and weaponry, in the occupational circumstances of the times, there were certainly diplomatic instances as well. Weapons such as this seem likely to have been crafted for presentation to key figures whether administratively or within these ranks .

I have seen other examples of hilts (in brass) made with the tiger head (Tipu's leitmotif) fashioned in the M1796 British light cavalry pattern. Examples like these have been suggested to have been commemoratively produced recalling Tipu whether as victory remembrance or honorific for officers of his forces now in British service. Naturally these ideas are debatable.

I recall a case regarding the Napoleonic campaigns in Egypt where one M1803 British flank company officers sword I had was with the typical lion head, however instead of flowing mane, the backstrap included a distinctly sphinx styled headdress on the lions head.
This reflects the kind of commemorative styling sometimes incorporated into British military swords of first quarter 19th c.

If the blade on this sword is also considered, a good number of British military sabres of Napoleonic period had blades with the stepped back (yelman) at blade tip, recalling this established feature on many Indian blades.
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Old 22nd November 2016, 08:08 PM   #23
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More pictures !
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Old 22nd November 2016, 08:48 PM   #24
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We seem to have crossed posts Likhari! and great comparison of the hilt on this sword to carved hilts on various dagger forms as noted. It seems that there was considerable confluence of Persian as well as Ottoman influence in Indian weaponry especially in Mughal courts.

The heavy blade with pronounced yelman is of course reminiscent of Ottoman blades such as kilij/pala but these were descended from Turkic forms and very much present in India as well.

Interesting similarity in the brass mounts and brown leather scabbard too.
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Old 22nd November 2016, 10:39 PM   #25
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Likhari I almost bought a similar example to yours but with small cracks. I regret not getting it, but this Bonham's example is a great one.
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Old 23rd November 2016, 05:36 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saracen

Photo 1 has a lot to do with this topic:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...highlight=Ariel



I think it is a valid and astute comment.

Any thoughts?
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Old 30th November 2016, 09:17 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Likhari
Here is the complete sword for you Marius and Jens !

It is a thorough bastard that was put together probably for a British cavalry officer. The blade is wootz and possible 17th or 18th century. The handle is Indian carved ivory from the early 19th century and the guard is from the British Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre.

A dragoon or hussar office posted in India probably wanted to use a blade that he got as war booty and he had a local craftsman fashion it into a sword that he could wear as part of his uniform. Pure conjecture but it makes for a good story !!



Clearly it was occasionally the done thing to have a sword commissioned ...Please see http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=21674 and at #5 an example of a Wilkinson Hybrid style for the British/Indian Market see also Wilkinson marks on that thread. These appear as Ethiopian form.
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Old 30th November 2016, 02:17 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rand
Likhari,

You have a very nice sword that is also in great condition. Have you pondered removing the shellack from the ivory, it could make a very dramatic difference. Have had two pieces in the past that were covered with shellack, coincidently both were from india. And both looked much better after the shellack was taken off.

Also would like to comment on the scabbard. Would think the officer who commissioned this would have had a scabbard with a double hanger in the British 1822 style. Also believe judging from the quality of the sword its scabbard would have been of a higher dress quality equal to the sword.

Really like your sword, the well carved ivory handle along with nicely etched wootz blade topped off with the gold koftgari is a win, win,win.


rand


Knowing how finicky you are, Mr. Milam, about the quality of weapons and the high standards you have for your own collection: I consider your comments to be a great compliment and they will make me treasure this sabre even more.

Here is another example from my collection - an Indian Pesh Kabz with a carved ivory handle. The rivets holding the scaled together having been driven through the center of the carved flowers.
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