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Old 23rd May 2005, 06:56 PM   #1
B.I
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Default European Piha Kaetta

this is a very interesting piece. of exhibition size, and materials used mean its of decorative manafacture, but it has been created by three artisans, each as important as the other. the description, as stated (look at the size) -

cast in copper gilt, the blade and pistol grip hilt decorated with elaborate scrolls and a bands of foliate patterning, areas of scrolled openwork to the blade, the pommel terminating in a knop finial, inscriptions at grip and along the back edge of the blade. 44cm
INSCRIPTION
F. BARBEDIENNE (caster)
D. ATTARDOE fecit (maker)
C[onstant] SEVIN (1821-88) (designer/modeller) 1870

As indicated by the inscriptions, this fine dagger was the work of a three-man team, the caster, the maker and the designer. The design is based on a Sinhalese horn or ivory prototype called a Piha Kaetta characterised by a pistol-shaped hilt and the distinctive Sinhalese profuse scrolling decoration known as liya pata (vine leaf) (Archer 1987, p.45). This dagger like its Sri Lankan counterparts would have been used for ceremonial purposes only. This may well have been a diplomatic gift between French and Sri Lankan dignitaries.
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Old 23rd May 2005, 07:10 PM   #2
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Default Interesting

And culturally sensitive too .

In my readings I recall that the Afghan Lord Dost Mohammed was infuriated by the Western manufactured items that were brought to him as gifts the first time a British legation visited Kabul .

B.I. have you personally seen this piha ?
What is the black material near the end of the blade ?
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Old 23rd May 2005, 07:13 PM   #3
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Thanks for posting this, Brian. Absolutely beautiful!

If I'm not mistaken, I believe this knife was presented at the Timonium Seminar this past March.
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Old 23rd May 2005, 07:22 PM   #4
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hi rick/andrew,
yes, i saw and handled it this morning. the whole piece is copper, with all but the blade being gilt. the 'black' is the light catching it. the balde is relatively plain. the gilt is worn in places, but this just highlights the decoration in a very attractive way. the inscriptions are in very neat script.
i wasnt aware it was shown at the timonium, but recall someone saying Bob H had a few ceylonese pieces there, but cant remember if it was the march show. if this was the case andrew, then it all makes sense.
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Old 23rd May 2005, 08:25 PM   #5
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Wow,
I missed out. I would like to see that up close. It looks like they captured the vine art or liya vela style incorporated into the decoration of pihas.

Is the grip assembled from separate elements or is it cast in one piece? I can't tell from the pics. Either way, its a prety nice effort.

I'd like to have a pic of it on pihakaetta.com. Who do I ask? BTW, what source are you quoting in the description?
-d
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Old 23rd May 2005, 08:49 PM   #6
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hi derek,
as far as i can tell, it was all in one piece. getting a better picture would be very hard, unfortunately.
i've sent you a pm.
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Old 23rd May 2005, 09:11 PM   #7
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If the Italians can make Piha Kaettas, why wouldn't the Rajastanis make Dhas or the Thais Kastanes?
Weapons know not borders.....
(Am I misquoting someone famous?)
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Old 23rd May 2005, 09:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B.I
hi rick/andrew,
yes, i saw and handled it this morning. the whole piece is copper, with all but the blade being gilt. the 'black' is the light catching it. the balde is relatively plain. the gilt is worn in places, but this just highlights the decoration in a very attractive way. the inscriptions are in very neat script.
i wasnt aware it was shown at the timonium, but recall someone saying Bob H had a few ceylonese pieces there, but cant remember if it was the march show. if this was the case andrew, then it all makes sense.


It was, indeed, Bob that presented this knife.
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Old 23rd May 2005, 09:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
If the Italians can make Piha Kaettas, why wouldn't the Rajastanis make Dhas or the Thais Kastanes?
Weapons know not borders.....
(Am I misquoting someone famous?)



lol. You are relentless, Ariel.

Show me a dha with "made in Rajastan by...", and I'll happily concede the point.
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Old 23rd May 2005, 11:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
If the Italians can make Piha Kaettas, why wouldn't the Rajastanis make Dhas or the Thais Kastanes?
Weapons know not borders.....
(Am I misquoting someone famous?)


sorry, i forgot to mention its of french manafacture. i assume the creators were well known and recorded, as this isnt speculated.
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Old 24th May 2005, 01:17 PM   #11
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hi,
this wasnt easy, so if we ever meet up at a show, derek, you owe me a pint of the good stuff :-)
i took the images, so they are yours to do with as you please.
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Old 24th May 2005, 01:20 PM   #12
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Old 24th May 2005, 01:37 PM   #13
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Fantastic, and make that a keg. The old craftsmen of Ceylon were trained from childhood to use various artistic techniques that reflected the land they lived in. Terms like "liya pata", "liya vela", "sina mal", etc. are all derived from flowers and vines found there. Yet to my eye these guys have reproduced the styles with admirable results. Really beautiful, thanks for sharing.

-d
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Old 24th May 2005, 04:24 PM   #14
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As I recall from Bob Hale's discussion of this piha, the designer was well-known, and possibly the maker (my memory is fuzzy, I know Bob indicated). I do not recall anything about the caster.
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Old 1st January 2014, 05:24 PM   #15
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Some more information on this specific dagger, which is quite a famous example of three collaborators work.

The decorator Sevin , the sculptor and the founder Attarge Barbedienne combined their talents to the production of this dagger. Several works produced by their association are found in large French and foreign museums. BARBEDIENNE Ferdinand (1810-1892) founded his house in 1839 and established his art foundry in Paris 30 boulevard Poissonnière . The combination of Art and Industry , promoted under the Second Empire , placed at the head of the largest manufacture of bronze art in Paris during the second half of the nineteenth century. Its production was rewarded at Universal Exhibitions . Louis -Constant Sevin (1821-1888) was a sculptor and decorator and was from 1855 to 1888, the main collaborator Ferdinand Barbedienne whose formidable success rested on its considerable activity (two thousand drawings listed ) . Sévin's talent was recognized and award-winning , including at the Universal Exhibitions in London in 1862 and Paris in 1867 and 1878. Attarge Désiré (1820-1878) was a renowned sculptor, much appreciated by Sevin. In 1855 , he entered the service of Barbedienne who praised his art by this comment "under the skillful and intelligent hand which the metal softens and takes on delicate forms."
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Old 1st January 2014, 09:45 PM   #16
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Am i missing something? Why are we making a big deal about a cast reproduction that, to my eyes at least, doesn't seem to hold a candle to fine examples of the real thing?
To me this is something to get excited about, not the cast repro above.
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Old 1st January 2014, 10:33 PM   #17
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A matter of legitimacy then .
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Old 1st January 2014, 11:05 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
A matter of legitimacy then .

Well yes, not just culturally, but also in execution because as far as i know real Piha Kaettas are not cast in one piece in this manner. This is kind of like a Franklin Mint replica to me. A bit pretty on the surface perhaps, but with no soul or substance.
To fill others in on you remark Rick, perhaps we should direct them you the discussion currently on the keris forum.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...4754#post164754
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Old 2nd January 2014, 02:06 AM   #19
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I AGREE WITH DAVID THE WORKMANSHIP AND TRADITIONAL TECKNIQUES USED EXCEED THIS FRENCH MADE ITEM. BOTH ARE NICE BUT ONE IS FORIGN MADE USING NON TRADITIONAL TECKNIQUES AND MATERIALS. I PERSONALLY WOULD PREFER THE TRADITIONAL PHIA OVER THE FRENCH ART PIECE WITH FAMOUS NAMES BUT BOTH ITEMS WOULD BE WORTHY OF COLLECTING. THE FRENCH MADE ONE SHOULD APPEAL TO THOSE WHO COLLECT ITEMS MADE BY THE FAMOUS ARTISTS WHO CONTRIBUTED. PERHAPS ANDY WARHOL COULD HAVE MADE SOMETHING CEYLON'ISH BUT THE ITEMS VALUE WOULD BE SECONDARY TO THE NAME OF THE ARTIST AND WHO KNOWS WHAT CULTURE AND TECKNIQUE IT WOULD HAVE EXHIBITED.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 03:29 AM   #20
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DOUBLE POST
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Old 2nd January 2014, 04:58 AM   #21
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Not downplaying the beauty and the authentic techniques of the original Piha Kaettas, I am perfectly content with the European thing.
It is, IMHO, a nice homage to the Ceylonese original and does not pretend to be one: it is even signed by the master. It is a curiosity in the same sense as using Japanese motives in contemporary European art and fashion, or Japanese pictures of the late 19th/20th centuries employing purely European techniques. Weapons are no different: the Russians made yataghans in Zlatoust, the Venetians copied Moroccan Nimchas ( or was it the other way around? :-)), the Indonesians might have copied their Kerises from Indian examples, and the best contemporary examples of Nihonto are being made by Western masters and are commanding high prices even in Japan.

Art has no borders, and as long as it is not an outright deceitful fake , it is perfectly legitimate and should be judged on its own merits.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 05:15 AM   #22
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Double post.

Last edited by ariel : 2nd January 2014 at 05:17 AM. Reason: double post: the system is capricious today.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 06:05 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Am i missing something? Why are we making a big deal about a cast reproduction that, to my eyes at least, doesn't seem to hold a candle to fine examples of the real thing?
To me this is something to get excited about, not the cast repro above.



Actually I believe you are, and interesting to see this intriguing European made example of these outstanding Sinhalese knives. This posting was from back in the great discussion days and anything that caught the fancy of B.I. was hardly presented lightly. What we are seeing here is not meant to be a comparison, but a historic instance reflecting international diplomacy and trade and much of what we study here has a great deal to do with history.
I think Ariel has expressed this perspective perfectly.

A&A, outstanding information and follow up on this knife and thank you so much for bringing this thread up and sharing it here. Well done!
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Old 2nd January 2014, 07:58 AM   #24
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Interesting post and subject. It is useful to note that the copying in non-ferrous metal of native weapons by Europeans, has an 18th century precedent. The explorer and naturalist, Joseph Banks who sailed with Cook on his first voyage, was so impressed by the Maori short club or "patu", that on his return to England he had several brass copies cast, for distribution to Maori notables on his anticipated second voyage with Cook. However, in the event, Banks did not sail to the South Seas a second time.

Here is an image of the brass version...
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Old 2nd January 2014, 01:42 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Actually I believe you are, and interesting to see this intriguing European made example of these outstanding Sinhalese knives. This posting was from back in the great discussion days and anything that caught the fancy of B.I. was hardly presented lightly. What we are seeing here is not meant to be a comparison, but a historic instance reflecting international diplomacy and trade and much of what we study here has a great deal to do with history.
I think Ariel has expressed this perspective perfectly.

We will have to agree to disagree then. While it may be interesting to discuss how and why this copy was used in international diplomacy and the history of that i see no such discussion on that subject taking place here. Why was this piece created in the first place? Was this a presentation piece? To whom and when? I might see some merit in that discussion if there was some historical perspective to it. As an object on to itself i see nothing particularly fantastic about this piece.
I also disagree that this is the same as outside cultural motifs being incorporated into the art of European culture. Those artist still created something original. This is just a copy and IMHO it has no ethnographic integrity. The Javanese keris may well have it's influences in some Indian dagger form, but it is not a copy of that form. If it were we would find keris forms in India. Those India daggers served as an inspiration for development and the keris evolved in Java as a unique form. And if the Russians made yataghans in Zlatoust, the Venetians copied Moroccan Nimchas, did they cast them in one piece to artsy copper paperweights or were they forging real bladed weapons for real use?
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Old 2nd January 2014, 03:38 PM   #26
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Very well put rebuttal David, and now that you have expanded on your comments I can see your perspective, which is interesting, and of course distinctly your opinion. I did not mean to imply this particular piece was actually used in a diplomatic role, but that it was clearly produced during a period where colonial and trade activity had attracted great interest in items of exotica.
As you well point out, this item indeed does not have any specific integrity from an ethnographic posture, that is, it is not culturally representative per se. However it does seem interesting to me, and apparently to others, as I have indicated earlier, from perhaps an artistic and somewhat historic point of view . Antique Arms clearly reflected his interest by reviving this thread of nearly 8 years ago by sharing data which was not only pertinent but extremely helpful in updating this thread, exactly the kind of action many of us here hope for in building collective and archived knowledge on many topics.

Colin, thank you so much for the excellent example you have posted of the Maori club, which illustrates perfectly exactly what I was trying to point out.

I think we are all aware of copies and reproductions of arms and armor, which of course are typically regarded as quite unimportant in the view of those of us who are historically attuned in the collection of arms. However many examples of such arms from earlier periods have actually become antiquities in their own right, case in point those from the atelier of Ernst Schmitt of Germany. Here the copies of medieval and renaissance arms and armor, skillfully crafted and carefully researched were so well executed that many ended up in museum displays years later. While admittedly 'copies', they have gained their own place in the field of arms collecting.

I do see your point however in noting that the character of this piece does not comply with the production of the original weapons in that it is more aligned with artistic merit than sound functionality. I would note here that this is often the case in many weapons of the 18th century forward such as many court type swords and fraternal swords, which were distinctly accoutrements of fashion and regalia, but still count as collectible arms in many fields.

Thank you for explaining your position David, and while we agree to disagree here, it is good that we are able to elaborate on the reasons for our opinions for the benefit of discussion.
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Old 2nd January 2014, 06:57 PM   #27
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Default European made Piha

A side note, I have seen several similar piha by the same caster. Just as an example see attached. Heavy silver plated brass, 35 cm long
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Old 2nd January 2014, 07:30 PM   #28
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To me their nice curiosity's or wall hangers, but hardly arms....

There not intended to be functional, so there not arms.

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Old 2nd January 2014, 08:30 PM   #29
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Folks, I think the opinions went in the opposite directions, but the courses were parallel so that we could never reach a common destination

The French "piha" was not intended to be a weapon: it was made as an object of art after the fashion of an exotic Sinhalese knife. It could have been used as a letter opener, no more. ( And, BTW, the original Pihas were also not weapons, but rather utility knives; the tasks of the two examples were similar but somewhat different).

We just cannot judge the French example on the basis of its fighting capabilities, and there are plenty of examples among our traditional " sharpies".

Javanese kerises lost their fighting function long ago, with the exception of rare cases of domestic violence, for which purpose the French Piha would also do swimmingly. Still, there are people who collect kerises for their technologically useless pamor patterns, exotic wood, carvings etc. Most of the daggers in the new Robert Hales' book were never drawn in anger, they were just expensive baubles. We have heard from one of the members that the ferocious Omani kattaras were in fact just dancing props. The "golden age" of Caucasian kindjals came well after they outlived their fighting purpose and became a part of the costume, akin to the pocket watch with a thick golden chain.

The French Pihas ( thanks, Artzi, for providing the justification to use the plural :-)) are just nice artistic renditions. Any Piha collector would love to add them to his bunch of the "real stuff" with no fear of being called a sissy.

Just relax, there is no sense going ballistic because some Frenchie made a pretty paperweight:-)
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Old 2nd January 2014, 09:25 PM   #30
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Perhaps I was wrong to use the word arms... Thy are for scribes after all.

I just should have said their virtualy non functional...

Paper weights, wall hangers {art} & letter openers not withstanding.

But each to their own.

full size Cast brass kukris copied from originals turn up on ebay & auctions sometimes, there good cast renditions.... They usually reach about $15.

In my youth I worked in a foundry... I could have copy cast hundreds of such items every day....Pihas, kuks whatever....

So to me they don't have much allure, other than any history attached.

The genuine featured Piha is a nice example of an ethnographic arm though... woops.. I mean an ethnographic & functional tool..

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