Place of Origin: Lahore, India
Date: Early 19th Century
Overall: 1500mm (59 inches)
This example is of the long and slender Punjabi form, and the stock is elaborately covered in polychromatic decorations with red-petalled flowers and green leaves set on a gold background. The metal side-plates are treated with the same motifs. Some minor flash damage under the pan indicates that the gun has been fired, and illustrates the lack of practicality of such lavish decorations. These items were, however, as much works of art and status symbols as they were weapons.
The butt is straight, thin and five-sided with the end painted in a spray of long, green leaves. The D-shaped trigger is cut and pierced, and decorated with gold koftgari; as is the match-holder (serpentine) which, when the trigger is depressed, would have lowered a lit match towards the pan. The pan cover is retained and shaped as a flower, still working to keep the pan dry when not in use. The octagonal barrel is profusely covered in gold koftgari which is in an impressive state of preservation. The repeating floral patterns are in keeping with what was produced in Lahore in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the gun is complete with original ramrod and gilt-copper barrel bands.
There are two matchlock muskets from the Royal Armouries, Leeds, illustrated in the 1999 book edited by Susan Stronge The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms (pages 140–141). They are believed to have been made in Lahore in the early 19th century, and between them they share many similarities to the gun shown here. A third was displayed as part of the 2015 Metropolitan Museum exhibition The Royal Hunt: Courtly Pursuits in Indian Art1 and this originated from the same smith as the two mentioned above: Haji Sha’ban.