Dagger (khanjar) of Emperor Aurangzeb (reigned 1658–1707) and sheath

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Dagger (khanjar) of Emperor Aurangzeb (reigned 1658–1707) and sheath

India, Mughal empire, Dated 1660-1661
Arms and Armor; daggers
Light green nephrite jade hilt; steel blade inlaid with gold; wood sheath covered in velvet with metallic thread
Dagger: 13 3/4 x 2 in. (34.93 x 5.08 cm); Sheath: 10 x 1 5/8 x 3/4 in. (25.4 x 4.13 x 1.91 cm)
From the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Museum Associates Purchase (M.76.2.7a-b)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

...
This sublime dagger is inscribed in gold on the almost certainly original watered-steel blade as belonging to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707) and dating it from 1660–61 (AH 1071). The dagger’s exquisite hilt in the form of a horse's head is superbly modeled in light green nephrite jade with areas of the burnt-orange skin of the jade left on the surface to serve as highlights in its delicately incised mane. The horse’s head is an artistic tour de force that likely portrays an Arabian stallion, which was generally regarded as the superior breed by the Mughals and, therefore, befitting the supreme status of the emperor. The horse is rendered in naturalistic detail and imbued with a martial spirit appropriate to Aurangzeb who spent much of his rule on military campaigns. The imperial charger is ready for battle: his ears are laid back, his nostrils flare, and his lips snarl. Extending along the central axis on both faces of the blade is a stylized acanthus leaf cast in the steel and gilded, and a gilded royal parasol, symbolic of its imperial ownership and possibly indicating the dagger’s honorific status as a presentation item bestowed by the emperor. Imperial Mughal daggers and swords were typically embellished with hilts made of precious materials, often bejeweled, and their blades were crafted of the finest damascene steel (layers of metal forged together and etched to enhance the watered pattern).
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Bibliography

  • Rosenfield, John.  The Arts of India and Nepal: The Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection.  Boston:  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1966.
  • Buck, Robert T.; Cathcart, Linda L.; Tuchman, Maurice and Gerald Norland.  O'Hern, John, ed. Richard Diebenkorn:  Paintings and Drawings, 1943-1976.   Buffalo : Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1977.
  • Rosenfield, John.  The Arts of India and Nepal: The Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection.  Boston:  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1966.
  • Buck, Robert T.; Cathcart, Linda L.; Tuchman, Maurice and Gerald Norland.  O'Hern, John, ed. Richard Diebenkorn:  Paintings and Drawings, 1943-1976.   Buffalo : Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1977.
  • Pal, Pratapaditya, Thomas W. Lentz, Sheila R. Canby, Edwin Binney, 3rd, Walter B. Denny, and Stephen Markel. "Arts from Islamic Cultures: Los Angeles County Museum of Art." Arts of Asia 17, no. 6 (November/December 1987): 73-130.

  • Pal, Pratapaditya, Janice Leoshko, Joseph M. Dye, III,  Stephen Markel.  Romance of the Taj Mahal.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989.
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art Members' Calendar 1992,  vol. 29-30, no. 12-1 (December, 1991-January, 1993).
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art Members' Calendar 1993,  vol. 31, no. 1-11 (January-November, 1993).
  • Markel, Stephen.  "The Use of Flora and Fauna Imagery in Mughal Decorative Arts."  Marg 50, no. 3 (March 1999).
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003.
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