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Old 16th August 2014, 05:05 PM   #31
Oliver Pinchot
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Ariel, I did not suggest it could be South Asian. Nothing about the form or decorative motifs supports that. As for the Mamluks, it's a strong possibility, given that expatriate Persian smiths made many of the arms and armor we associate with that culture-- it is often, in fact usually, of the highest quality. That said, I left it at Persian, in the interest of remaining concise. Mamluk arms are really a distinct discussion.

Point well taken regarding nationalism; it has no place in scholarly discourse. The Staritsky dagger may be from X, with the "inscription" added later, or Russian work in the style of X. I owned one of those, unembellished but complete with the scabbard, many years ago. Massive thing, it was close to 2 feet long.
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Old 17th August 2014, 11:56 PM   #32
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Oliver,
I was not even mentioning South Asia:-)
Central, -yes.
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Old 19th August 2014, 12:02 PM   #33
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When in doubt, ask the source ...

Last week I wrote to the Procuratoria of the Treasury of San Marco asking for more information about St. Peter's dagger. It may have helped that I wrote it on the stationery of my employer, Temple University, but I got a kind reply back this morning. This note accompanied two PDF files:
I send you some information about the so called St. Peter’s Dagger, which is kept in the Treasury of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

These pdf are taken from A. Pasini, Il Tesoro di San Marco in Venezia, Venezia 1886, and from Il Tesoro di San Marco. Il Tesoro e il Museo, ed. by H.R. Hahnloser, Firenze 1971.

Kind regards,

Chiara Vian


Procuratoria di San Marco Biblioteca

The two PDF are attached below. Unfortunately for me they are in Italian. I hope one of our forumites will translate them.

I will post the full PDF files as JPGs later today so that you don't need to download the files.

Ian.
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Old 19th August 2014, 02:33 PM   #34
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These are the jpg files from the older of the two references obtained from the San Marco archives.

A. Pasini (editor). Il Tesoro di San Marco in Venezia, 1886, pp. 88-89.

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Old 19th August 2014, 02:46 PM   #35
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And here are the jpg files from the more recent reference.

H.R. Hahnloser (editor). Il Tesoro di San Marco: Il Tesoro e il Museo, Firenze, 1971, pp. 122-123. (Note: This reference is in a chapter by K. Erdmann entitled Opere islamiche)

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Old 20th August 2014, 09:53 PM   #36
A. G. Maisey
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One of our members who is fluent in both Italian and English has agreed to provide either a translation or a precis of this text.
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Old 20th August 2014, 10:18 PM   #37
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Outstanding. Thanks to everyone.

This thread will be linked to in the "classic threads" sticky.

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Old 23rd August 2014, 10:57 PM   #38
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Thanks are certainly due to Ian for contacting Signorina Vian at the Library of Saint Mark. Having dealt with administrators of various collections in Italy many times over the years, I think the forum has just witnessed a verifiable miracle here (something entirely appropriate to the conversation, after all....) Props, Ian, for eliciting a response in so short a time.

I've spent a few days studying what each of these entries on the St. Peter's Dagger has to say, and following up what references they offer. In the interest of time, I will not translate them but leave that to the member Alan mentions; suffice it to say that it would have been far easier for these learned minds simply to admit that they can't attribute the dagger to a specific time or place.

The 1886 entry is notable for two observations:

1) that the dagger is documented as having entered the collection by 1620,
and
2) that the inscriptions are written in Syro-Armenian.

The first point allows the dagger to be dated to or before the early 17th century, generally validating our attribution. It also allows us to step around all sorts of arguments for the dagger dating not later than the early 1st century c.e., which it would have to do in order to have belonged to St. Peter. The second point is telling: it may explain the inability of these scholars to translate the inscriptions or, just as likely, what compelled them to identify the characters as Syriac (which, given what I can observe from the photos, they are not,) thus avoiding the thorny problem of ascribing the dagger to an Islamic culture, something which would pose a great many more inconvenient questions than it answers. Suffice it to say that the 1886 catalogue approaches the question more on the basis of establishing the dagger as a holy relic than anything else.

The 1972 entry is less inclined to a doctrinal approach, however it states quite clearly at the outset that the dagger is lavoro orientale non meglio definibile meaning, it is "oriental" work, but not definable [identifiable] beyond that, by the authors. This remarkably timid pronouncement is followed in a subsequent paragraph by the equally doubtful "perhaps Syria." The inscriptions are reproduced, but very poorly; they do not allow for much interpretation. We know from the actual photos that the grip is quite worn, however the characters at least appear to be much clearer than those in the sketches. Considerable space is devoted to footnotes, #1 of which refers to correspondence with a Mr. Uhlemann, Director of the Deutsches Klingenmuseum in Solingen, who calls the dagger insolita, or "unusual." He proceeds, in appropriate academic form, to say exactly why it's unusual, but offers no other conclusion except that it may originally have been a lancehead.

While they have certainly proved worthy of consideration, I cannot view these descriptions of the St. Peter's Dagger with particular respect; their authors were bound by the most basic art historical methodology; one designed and intended for Western European art. Whether this was for dogmatic reasons or simple orientalism, is beyond our knowledge. Even Islamic Art history, which had evolved a distinct methodology by the mid-20th century, could not, and did not, answer the simple question of what this dagger is. That was sorted by collectors, as well it should be.
A contemporary colleague of the authors of the 1971 catalogue, highly-regarded Islamic Art historian Ernst Kuhnel, wrote in the preface to his Islamic Art & Architecture (Die Kunst des Islam) (1963: Braunschweig, xi):

The importance of weapons in the artistic activity in the Near East is very widely known, and if its importance were to be given corresponding treatment [in this work], it should have a large chapter to itself. On the other hand, it is less the lovers of Islamic art than collectors of weapons who will be prepared to give these objects close attention, and the latter will find better and more thorough instruction in the specialist literature than can be given here.

Last edited by Oliver Pinchot : 24th August 2014 at 10:18 PM.
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Old 28th August 2014, 03:46 PM   #39
GIO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
One of our members who is fluent in both Italian and English has agreed to provide either a translation or a precis of this text.

Here is the translation of the first part. The second gives no further useful info. except for some speculations about origin and use of the knife.
Should some friends like to have also the second part translated, just let me know.
I think that these texts add nothing to the discussion, and, since they are already a bad translation into Italian, some terms are not correctly used.
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Old 28th August 2014, 03:49 PM   #40
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Sorry, only part of the text has been attached.
Trying to fix the problem
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Old 28th August 2014, 03:57 PM   #41
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Trying again
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Old 28th August 2014, 07:27 PM   #42
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GIO:

Thanks very much for the translation. It is disappointing and not very helpful information, as you correctly noted.

I think the final section of your translation was perhaps the most informative:
"Molinier: The knife came shortly before 1620 into St. Mark’s Treasure. It was thought to be the knife with which St. Peter cut Malco’s ear. On Oct. 11, 1608 it was in possession of a priest (Giovanni Battista Cominello) and on Jan. 3, 1609 was deposited with the Cappuccini Fathers. It can be identified as the knife which Alessandro Foscari of St. Simeon left in his will to his cousin Filippo, on condition—should he die without sons—to leave it to the St. Peter’s church (and this happened on April 8, 1559).

Since 1697 the knife has been considered as that used by Christ at the Last Supper, but in 1845 it was not regarded as such any more and transferred from the relics to the St. Mark’s Treasure."
So the St. Peter to whom this knife was attributed was Peter the Apostle, which answers one of the questions that was raised earlier. And the earliest provenance recorded for this knife appears to be 1559 when it was bequeathed to St. Peter's church.

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Old 28th August 2014, 08:14 PM   #43
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I would like just to add that most of the Islamic objects in the Basilica San Marco are from the Fatimids in Egypt... 12th...
A lot of these oriental objects came from Alexandria through trade
or from Constantinopolis/Istanbul after the sack of the town by the Venetians.
It is may be some others tracks...
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Old 29th August 2014, 12:32 AM   #44
A. G. Maisey
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When I began this thread I did so with no more intent than to share an image of a rather nicely made, old, Eastern dagger, I had no idea that this image would generate such an involved discussion.

I extend my thanks to GIO for his translation of the Italian document, and in spite of both his comments, and Ian's comments, I find this document to be loaded with information.

Certainly, information such as specific point of origin in respect of time or place is not provided, but there is more than sufficient information to permit a person with sufficient interest to pursue the lines of investigation indicated as being required.

Admitted, such investigation may not be able to conducted online, nor even in a well equipped library, but could require some years of committed field work, however, the leads have been provided, all that is now required is dedication.

This dagger is not currently regarded as being attributed to St. Peter the Apostle. The name only is "St. Peter's Dagger", and it is attributed to the 14th century. I said this in the text of my post that opened this thread, and I think that my present statement is the fourth time I have said this. The Italian document now translated, tells us exactly why it is named thus.

In respect of the correct name for this type of this dagger, I don't know how naming conventions apply in this particular area of weaponry, but in the area with which I am most familiar, the name of a weapon, or for that matter many other objects, can vary enormously, dependent upon the time and the place:- what something is known as now in one place may not be the same as it was known as in the place and at the time when it was created. In many cases collectors have constructed their own lexicon which may bear very little relevance to the names used in the originating culture at any time or place.

The field of weaponry and art represented by this dagger is not of any great interest to me, and I have never carried out any research in this field, however, compared with the information and sources available in my own area of interest, it appears to me that the information available in respect of this one dagger is not only considerable, but also comparatively easily accessed.

I thank you most sincerely Giovanni for your very enlightening contribution.
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Old 29th August 2014, 05:48 PM   #45
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Alan, thanks are due to you for contacting Giovanni, as well as to Giovanni for doing the translations. To all of the forum members who participated in the discussion: this kind of cooperation genuinely promotes knowledge. Happy to be a part of it.

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Old 29th August 2014, 06:03 PM   #46
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I think Alan has perfectly responded to this discourse, which has been really fascinating and informative despite the red herring route initially. This was due to the misleading moniker with which the dagger is labeled. Naturally displayed with that title in that museum's context, without further detail, it would be assumed this was St.Peter 'the Apostle's' dagger.
Alan tried to qualify that in the beginning, but the thread moved ahead without that detail.
He again tried to specify that in his post #9, and finally subsequent posts recognized that there were indeed other Saints named Peter in the period Alan had specified originally .

The outstanding posts which have been entered here have been most informative, and I agree with Alan, the information added by the much appreciated translation work by Gio is actually quite helpful.

Actually the weapon described as that which was used by St. Peter (the Apostle) to cut off Malcho's ear was according to other research, a falchion type weapon which is known as the 'Malchus sword', and is presently held in a museum in Poland. I think this was mentioned in an earlier post.

Therefore, the analysis and determination of the probable ethnic and regional attribution of this dagger has at last been properly placed in the correct period, and using Alan's well placed words, this has been a most enlightening discussion.

I thank you as well Gio for your outstanding assistance with this.
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