Place of Origin: Persia (modern-day Iran)
Date: 19th century
Overall: 413MM (16 ¼ INCHES)
Blade: 270MM (10.63 INCHES)
This khanjar dagger from Persia shows a similar form to other examples made in Persia during the Qajar period, but includes an extremely rare and unusual grip.
The hilt is carved from walrus ivory to convey a variety of human heads. The pommel shows two bearded and moustachioed men who are each crowned with a row of red rubies which line the edges of the pommel. The grip then depicts two female faces mirrored either side of a central bulbous moulding which is studded with small turquoise roundels. Both faces are carved with the facial features typically seen on female figures in Qajar works of art, such as pronounced eyebrows. The face nearest to the pommel even has a beauty mark on her cheek in the form of a small stone. The base of the hilt is further mounted with reddish coloured stones (later replacements) and turquoise.
The blade is forged from high-quality dark wootz steel with a strong central rib and two sunken panels which are decorated in gold with Islamic calligraphy. The accompanying wooden scabbard is covered with an Iranian brocade and finished with a walrus-ivory tip.
The depiction of two-dimensional figures on ivory hilts from Persia is widespread, but this type of three-dimensional carving and the prolific use of stones are both extremely rare. Most collections of arms and armour have examples, but two pieces preserved in the Wallace Collection (Inv. Nos. OA1713 and OA1714)[] and another at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession Number 36.25.1058) are useful comparanda.[]
UK art market