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Old 25th March 2010, 04:54 AM   #1
M ELEY
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Default Old Dutch hanger

Yes, I've resurrected this old sword again. Years ago, I posted some poor pics of it, but now that we have the European forum, I'm hoping perhaps to get some more info on it. Some background research-
This sword has an exact representation of it that appears in 'Swords and Hilt Weapons' B&N Books, pg 68 and also in Leslie Southwick's 'Price Guide to Antique Edged Weapons', pg 155. That example a fine museum-quality item with better detail and carved ivory hilt. That being said, I still believe that this hanger came from the same source...Singhalese, ca 1660-1700, Second Anglo-Dutch War period, probably made for the Dutch market. The book example believed to have been made for the Dutch EIC. As you can see from my example, the hilt is a seated lion with claw uplifted, guard is a hunting dog curled up, quillons are monster heads like appear on kastane. The wood appears tropical. The broad old blade with shallow double fullers and ancient brownish primer (to retard salt water rust? As found on some naval pieces?). Note the 4-dot (or is it diamond? Egg-shape?) forge mark. Also please note the wing(?) carved shapes facing each other on the hilt.
Does anyone recognise this stamp? Does anyone know what the wing carving might represent? Is there a Shri Lanken or Dutch symbol of a sitting lion I am unaware of? Perhaps a Dutch standard, flag or symbol? How about the wing pattern associated with the Dutch? EIC? Has anyone else seen a hanger like this one? Any association with the East India Company?
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Old 25th March 2010, 04:55 AM   #2
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More pics...
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Old 25th March 2010, 04:57 AM   #3
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And still more with details...
Note that in my searches, I came across an ancient Singhalese coin called a maneless lion coin. On it's back is a similar 4 point pattern in a cross pattern(or am I just imagining things?).

http://coins.lakdiva.org/ancient/maneless_lion.html

This coin goes back way too early for the time period of this sword, but perhaps the marking remained? Likewise, I couldn't find any evidence of one, but I've heard there is a Dutch coin called a dump that might have a similar marking dating to the 17th-18th century. Does anyone know of this coin?
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Old 26th March 2010, 01:58 PM   #4
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Hi Mark

Perhaps Anandalal knows something it?
He likes to research on these things.
Why don't you PM him, to call his attention?

Fernando
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Old 26th March 2010, 09:27 PM   #5
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Great idea, Fernando. It's worth a try, at least...
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Old 26th March 2010, 11:12 PM   #6
Jim McDougall
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Hi Mark,
Im really glad you posted this as it is truly an intriguing piece, and I love a good mystery! I have been looking through some things and can offer the following as my own theory, which may be speculative, but until we hear from the experts, what I have found might serve as an operative theory.

As you have noted, the hilt is very similar to the ivory hilt example in "Swords and Hilt Weapons" (p.68) and shown as Dutch c.1660. In the same article there are a couple of other examples of these elaborate theme type hilts of Holland and North Italy of 17th century. The ivory example shown seems to have a somewhat similar lion type head but with human limbs and appears to be in the same semi-seated stance as your example. It is important to note that Ceylon was occupied by the Dutch VOC (=Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie) from about 1602 until taken over by British East India Co. in 1796.
The lionhead is significant to the Ceylonese (Sinhalese, sinha=lion) as their ancestry is from Prince Vijaya, and they consider themselves the 'lion people'.
This theme is seen on the well known Sinhalese sword, the kastane, and its characteristic lionhead pommel. The other features often seen are makara, semiaquatic beasts of Hindu/Buddhist mythology. The wings seen in the carving here might relate to either the garuda, or perhaps the kinnara (half man half bird).
What is most interesting is that this lionhead seems to resemble the lionhead pommels on British swords of 1770's to that of the British lionhead infantry officers sword of M1803, with the flowing mane, though closely flattened.
This does not appear to be a maneless lion.

From the 17th century there was a great deal of cross cultural diffusion in the decoration on swords, and there are Dutch swords with kastane type lionheads of 18th century, while clearly the Sinhalese craftsmen adopted themes from the European swords. Much of this diffusion related directly with the traders and diplomatic relations with the native people.

Mark, you have really carried into a most important element of research that has long been championed by Olikara and Jens, that of the importance of old coins as applied to research on weapons. Your research on these old VOC coins is excellent, and I followed your lead to the coin known as the 'dump'.

On the 1783 VOC one stuiver coin, there are two four dot rosettes in this exact configuration, and interestingly on the reverse with the date are two voluted characters which resemble perhaps Sinhalese or Tamil alphabet.
On this hilt, the two opposed figures seem temptingly similar allowing for artistic embellishment.

The adoption of simplistic symbolism from trade sword blade markings is well known and in this case, perhaps the marking from this stuiver coin, may have been presumed to imbue talismanic or amuletic power in the temporal sense by native craftsmen. The British style appearance of the lionhead may suggest this could be the work of a native carver in Ceylon about the time of the British takeover. The rosette marking may have been applied by a native craftsman on the earlier courtsword blade, and here it has been mounted on a wood carved hilt in that time.

Attached are the 1783-1793 Ceylon Dutch VOC one stuiver 'dump' coin (note four dot 'rosettes' )a VOC metal plate with similar markings.

The brown varnish on the blade may well be exactly that, as this was often applied to edged weapons in old collections.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 27th March 2010, 02:50 AM   #7
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Jim, once again, you astound me! I have been searching for the Dutch coin that supposedly bore the 4 dot pattern, but had never conclusively found it. I mentioned it just in case someone else was familiar. Now, here you present it to me! Thank you so much for this vital piece of the puzzle now filled. Your logic in this sword's history feels dead-on, even with the odd winded-symbol resembling stylized version on the same coin. So perhaps as the British were taking over, the Singhalese were incorporating their stylized lion pattern when they made this sword, but kept the original marking that pre-dated the Dutch coin by many centuries. Wow! That bit of information was exactly what I was looking for! Thanks. My one final question might be as to whether this sword was made for a Westerner in the EIC or for the local populace? That one we may never know.
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Old 27th March 2010, 06:55 AM   #8
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Hi Mark,
Thank you for the kind words, and as I noted, I was pretty much following your lead, and since I had heard of these coins before just revisited that data. It was great to find that exact pattern on the coin....I recall in some earlier discussion on smallswords there was a star type configuration on some Dutch sword blades in this same manner. I am wondering if the native armourers were simply applying this mark in the same sense they might have perceived those.
It seems that these type swords were produced as early as the previous century for merchants and traders as essentially status symbols, although they were obviously with ivory, horn and in some cases possibly crystal. Some of these decorative swords were probably diplomatic gifts, and there were makers in the central regions who produced lavish weapons for the Kandy rulers in earlier times.

Since this is carved wood, I would suspect it is an item produced in about the period suggested c.1800-20 as British rule took over, and probably intended for trade market. Carved wood seems to suggest native production although unusual for weapons as an accoutrement in official use. In Southern India after the defeat of Tipu Sultan in 1799, there was brisk production of weapons produced in 'Tipu's Mysori style compounded with British form intended for British officers and presentations to local officials and military. Some of these had brass hilts with Tipu style features along with the British military M1796 pattern.
Perhaps this type circumstance existed in Ceylon in the same way.

It would really be interesting to hear opinions from Anandalal, Olikara and Cornelis with thier direct connections to this historical environment.
In any case, always fun to work with you on these mysteries

All the best,
Jim
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Old 27th March 2010, 09:40 AM   #9
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Default lion hilt

HI,
there was a development in Holland of a very interesting type of cross hilts in the middle of the 17thC the so called "leeuwengevesten"or lionhilt.
on those Hilts the Lion takes most of the space of the hilt.
such a hilt can be seen on the town guard of Hoorn painting of Jan Albertsz. Rotius made in 1655.
In the same time Golden Lion hilts were given to fleet owners for their duties by the VOC of Amsterdam. unfortunately we only know them now from paintings and no existing sample is known.

later the German sculper Goottfried Leygebe made also a lionhilt however the development on Holland was before his work.

now the sword of mark is a wooden? carving probably Dutch and made in one of its colonies or on the way to one of them.
the original of this wooden hilt, where a lion is attacked by four dogs is the same as on the painting of Rotius, in casted silver is laying in the tower of London.IX-849.

Mark, your sword is an interesting piece of Dutch history, I would love to have one like this.


best regards from Holland
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Old 27th March 2010, 02:42 PM   #10
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Excellent!!! There we have it!
Cornelis thank you so much for coming in on this, and I was sure you have have some well placed insight into a weapon of this intriguing nature with such apparantly profound Dutch history connection.
With this information it does seem that this cross hilt weapon was most likely contemporary with the type Mark has noted in "Swords and Hilt Weapons" (c.1660) and probably carved in the colonies.
The connection to the four dot configuration on the blade, while seen on the one stuiver coins of the latter part of the 18th century, while associating this sword with the VOC sphere, cannot be construed as setting the date of the weapon in that period as this symbolic arrangement must have been present earlier.

Cornelis, do you have thoughts or information on what the four dot rosette might signify?

Thank you again for this information, and it is truly exciting to see yet another 'mystery' sword turn out to be an important item of this fascinating part of Dutch history.

All very best regards,
Jim
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Old 27th March 2010, 07:59 PM   #11
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Hi Jim,

my pleasure

I think the dots only represent "the cross", usually on voc swords the date is placed between 2 of those dot crosses.

best regards
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Old 27th March 2010, 10:14 PM   #12
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A profound 'thank you', Cornelis and Jim for your valuable input on this sword. Its origin has been troubling me for over a decade and now I can finally see a clear picture of its history. Of course, I couldn't be more happier, as a colony piece such as this very likely could have seen sea service. Again, I can't thank you enough for solving this mystery!
Cheers!
Mark
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Old 30th March 2010, 02:04 AM   #13
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Dear Mark,

Your sword is indeed a very interesting one.

Sources clearly point to the Kastane Sword in the final form - lion head pommel, monster quillons etc., being found in the Dutch Period of Ceylon's history [mid 17th century to the late 18th century] as a sword denoting rank or authority. The British period comes thereafter and continued till the mid 20th century.

The lion form has significance to the Sinhalese people and has been utilized in their art, including in the Kastana hilt. However, the form that is found on your sword hilt is not one that I have come across so far. Particularly the form of half lion, half human - probably a shamanistic form where the human merges with the spirit of the lion in a trance state - could not be traced in Sinhalese art. Although shamanistic practices are still found in the country; with the influence of Buddhism such practices have moved away from the mainstream. Thus shamanistic art is rare in Ceylon. I am aware of one instance of deer headed human forms prancing about though there are cobra headed humans which represent not a shamanistic form but a race of people called the Nagas (Cobra).

Another feature of interest is that the quillon heads are facing different directions - one towards the point and the other towards the pommel. This too is not found in any Sinhalese swords I have examined and to me appears a distinct European feature. May be Jim can help here.

The wooden hilt with the wooden quillons is also curious. The quillons would certainly not serve its purpose not being of stout enough construction. I do not have the 'Price Guide" and 'Swords and Hilt Weapons'. Do they give the origin of the similar swords as Ceylon and in these words are the quillons also fashioned out of Ivory? Could this be an attempt at someone recreating a damaged hilt? The wood appears closer to rosewood of India?

Jim has a comment on a 'star' design. In fact the Dutch heraldry also has the combination of the four dots and star (probably a four petalled flower) as given in the illustration from a Design of a seal proposed for the Raad van Justitie of Colombo in 1666. Note the quillons facing different directions.

Mark - could you post a photograph of the entire sword? I am curious to know what the curvature and the point look like. Also what is the arm wrapped round the lion's waist? I am not getting a full picture of what is on the hilt and the guard.

Sorry for raising more questions than answers on this.


Regards.
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Old 30th March 2010, 01:43 PM   #14
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Hello Anandalal,

I'll have to take a shot of the whole blade as soon as I get a chance. The blade is just like a falchion's, swelling toward the point and then coming to the typical edge. I still feel Cornelis has nailed this one on the head, being of Singhalese origin where it possesses just enough of the kastane's features to show its origins while pointing to a weapon for export to the Dutch market. The sword mentioned in the previous volumes is a hanger with fine ivory hilt in this exact pattern, only much more detailed. It was listed as Singhalese and made probably for the Dutch EIC, although the pic doesn't show any marking to stake this theory of company use down concretely.

The heraldry you list does indeed show patterns of diamond-like dots and as seen on the dump coin, they used this pattern as found on my sword. My personal opinion as to the origin of this cross-like pattern of diamonds is that it goes back to the early Ceylon empire and the maneless lion coin I mention above dating to 200 A.D. Perhaps when the Shri Lanken people began creating the lion-hilt swords, they remembered their ancient lion coins and it's symbol, placing it here.(As both you and Jim pointed out, they had a great fondness for the lion in their culture). Later, as the Dutch produced coins and later swords, they might have adapted this early marking. This isn't too much of a stretch as Jim pointed out that the stuvier also has what appears to be possible Tamil or Singhalese symbols. Just a theory, but it could fit. In any case, I feel mid/late 17th c. Perhaps mine was an early native model for the later prized copies or was made after them in appreciation for their patterning.
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Old 30th March 2010, 05:04 PM   #15
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Hi Anandalal,
Im glad you came in on this as well. I was looking forward to yours and Cornelis' thoughts on this outstanding piece, as not only do you both constantly offer asutely well placed observations and examples, but your obvious places in Ceylon and Holland respectively is well placed.

Interesting notes on the therionthropic properties of the lion, which I believe are more toward the theological mythology figures of Hinduism incorporating the lion of Sinhala, in a European style with human limb features. I think this is more the effect sought rather than toward any shamanic properties.
While the lionhead was key in the 18th century hilt motif in Great Britain by about the period of this sword, as noted it also was present in the gold lionheads in Holland.
In addition to that European influence, as you have observed, the opposed or alternating quillon terminals are indeed a European affectation seen often on many hilt configurations, especially on hangers. It may be pointed out that this feature also became apparant in a number of weapons such as the dadao in China and others.

It is important to emphasize the nature of this sword, which actually corresponds to the swords of the European gentry which became known curiously as 'pillow swords' as it was thought they were kept as personal protection in personal chambers. Actually these simple cross hilt swords were 'walking swords', and intended to represent status in a fashionable accoutrement sense. While the fragile materials of the hilts decry thier effectiveness in pitched combat, their primary function was image, even though they had limited degree as weapons.

Good observation on the four dot star or rosette, and its place in the heraldic use. Actually rather than a strategic symbolic device, I think that most of the interpretations of this device can be construed temporally in many ways. However, it seems quite likely in may simply represent the quatrefoil, which like the four leaf clover is a positively charged symbol representing good luck and in some perspective, the cross.

I still maintain that this sword, like the examples seen in ivory and I believe even crystal (though I have not yet seen an example of these, but the material was used at the time), these status oriented swords were produced in ports of call or trade locations for European consumption rather than use by Ceylonese people. Just as noted earlier, many of these style swords were produced for presentation to important merchants and traders in these regions, as image was of course keenly important in the dealings in trade.
Elaborate and sumptuously decorated hilts represented elevated status of the individual to his clients and prospective buyers, and his success would suggest power and install confidence in transactions, a well known practice through all times and cultures.

A fantastically important and historic sword!!!

All very best regards,
Jim
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Old 2nd March 2012, 07:22 AM   #16
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Dredging up this one again concerning the primer on the blade. Opinions as to whether you think this was applied to the blade during time of use to retard rusting (especially if it was a merchant/sea sword where priming the hilts/blades not uncommon) or done later as preservative.

Secondly, if done later, should I attempt to remove it and if so, how?
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Old 29th March 2014, 03:41 AM   #17
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Bumping this thread...
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Old 27th January 2021, 05:23 PM   #18
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Default Added pics

Just some better pics updated for posterity-
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Old 28th January 2021, 09:09 AM   #19
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Interim tweaked for clarity on the blade details: should clean up well when you stabilize the rust.
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Old 28th January 2021, 09:50 AM   #20
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Thanks for the clarified image, Wayne. Unfortunately, the blade was 'primed' long ago with rust-colored brown paint. I have always been too afraid to try and remove it. I think it was done long ago during the hanger's working life like some other sea swords I've come across to decrease salt water corrosion-
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Old 28th January 2021, 11:12 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
Thanks for the clarified image, Wayne. Unfortunately, the blade was 'primed' long ago with rust-colored brown paint. I have always been too afraid to try and remove it. I think it was done long ago during the hanger's working life like some other sea swords I've come across to decrease salt water corrosion-
Many old primers were based on red lead, be careful. back when I was at sea, we almost bathed in it, and asbestos too.
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