Place of Origin: Bandanwara, India
Date: 17th Century
This superb tulwar has survived the last 400 years well, preserving an excellent condition overall and retaining much of its high-quality gold koftgari. The hilt originates from the north of India while the blade was made in Iran during the Safavid Dynasty era.
The dark, iron hilt is highlighted by generous gold ornamentation with many irises, plants and leaves expertly represented. Across the pommel disc, quillons and langets the decoration is presented in attractive overlaid relief with a small area of old repair. The grip however, and the underside of the pommel disk is gold inlay. The pommel’s knop still has its intricate openwork belt loop—a feature so often lost. The style of decoration can be compared to that of another dated to the 17th century from the Jaipur Royal Collection (see Elgood’s Arms & Armour at the Royal Jaipur Court: The Royal Collection, p.115 no.80). The level of detail and sense of movement found in the flowers is also echoed by another gold-inlaid hilt dated to the 17th century which we can find in the al-Sabah collection (see Keene and Kaoukji’s Treasury of the World, exhibition catalogue, London, 2001, p.90 nos.7 and 8).
The elegantly sweeping single-edged blade of curves to augment the wielder’s cutting power and shows steps within the swirling patterns that denote the use of prized ‘Mohammeds ladder’ wootz steel, or kirk narduban. Two motifs, engraved and then inlaid with gold wire, adorn the blade. The first gives us the smith’s name as Assad’ullah Isfahani; the second translates into English as “Slave of [the King of] Trusteeship, ‘Abbas’”. The blade’s spine, near the hilt, is engraved with the number 35 which is perhaps an inventory marking.
A brown scabbard, made from wood and covered in velvet, protects the tulwar. It has finely detailed gilt-copper fittings and metal-thread seams.
A group of daggers from Bandanwara, Rajasthan, is widely known to collectors and has circulated for decades between dealers and collectors in the UK. These daggers bear the same scabbard label to this tulwar which was purchased with a relating tulwar which is offered as the next object in this catalogue. One notable collector of this group was the late Robin Wigington who is best known for accumulating the Tipu Sultan collection, sold at auction by Bonhams, London, in 2015.
In the teardrop cartouche, in Persian:
عمل اسد الله اصفهانی
“Work of Asad Allah Isfahani.”
In the diamond-shaped cartouche, in Persian:
بنده شاه ولایت عباس
“Slave of the King of Trusteeship (i.e. ‘Ali), ‘Abbas.”
For blades inscribed with the name Asad Allah Isfahani, see A.S. Melikian-Chirvani, art. ASADALLĀH EṢFAHĀNĪ”, in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. II, Fasc. 7, pp. 698-699
Provenance: London art market.