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Place of Origin: Southern India

Date: 16th or early 17th Century

Overall: 505mm (20 inches)

Blade: 290mm (11 ½ inches)

Reference: 445

Status: Sold

Full Description:

This sang (spearhead) shows refined craftsmanship and a good state of preservation. 

A large iron ring, pierced with two concentric circles of small holes, forms the base of the spear’s tubular socket which has been adorned with detailed floral motifs. The socket is strengthened by three thick band-shaped mouldings which alternate with chased bands, all chiselled throughout with rows of recurrent beading. The double-edged blade curves gently and is intricately decorated at the forte on each face with a symmetrical composition of opposing yali (dragon-like mythological creatures) that exhibit large, curved fangs and scales which have been cleverly cut to mimic the ridged texture of reptilian skin. A central lotus design separates the creatures and repeats in miniature at the base of the blade’s deep-cut arrowhead fullers. The style of this decoration is linked with the Nayaka kingdom (1529-1736): during the rule of the Nayakas, art and architecture flourished in the region of what is now modern-day Tamil Nadu.[1] As explained in Dr Ravinder Reddy’s recent study, ‘Southern [Indian] spearheads tended to be weighty, straight or curved, adorned with chiselled mythological beasts and generally with no gold but sometimes with silver plate.’[2]

Another spear, remarkably similar to the present example, has been illustrated in The Hindu Warrior (2019), a work by Roy Elvis;[3] and Robert Elgood’s discussion of these spearhead-types, points to further comparanda that are preserved in important museums and collections, such as the Royal Collection Trust.[4] Examples of such sang spears were presented to King Edward VII during his tour of India in 1875-76 when Prince of Wales, by Muktamabai Chhatrapati, Princess of Tanjore. These were recorded in the exhibition Arms and Armour at Sandringham: The Indian Collection (1910)[5], probably as diplomatic gifts from the Zamindar of Seithur. A similar spear was also published by Runjeet Singh Ltd[6].


European art market


[1] The Nayaks – renowned for their intricate artworks and spectacular architecture – formed a dynasty in Southern India after the collapse of the Vijayanagar Empire, and ruled from the 16th to 18th centuries.

[2] Ravinder Reddy, Arms & Armour of India, Nepal & Sri Lanka: Types, Decoration and Symbolism, Hali Publications Ltd, 2019, p. 110.

[3] Roy Elvis, The Hindu Warrior, Thomas Del Mar Ltd, 2018, p. 381

[4] Robert Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, Eburon Academic Publishers, Delft (Netherlands), 2005, p. 194.

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