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Place of Origin: Sindh, Northern India

Date: Late 18th to early 19th Century

Overall: 1000mm (39 inches)

Reference: 447

Status: Sold

Full Description:

This rare and lavishly lacquered piece shows an elegant, double S-shaped curve, its reflex limbs formed from horn, wood and layers laid in glue (with horn belly, wooden core and sinew on the back), its surfaces wrapped in richly painted bark and brightly decorated with stylised floral motifs. The edges of the contours are lacquered in golden yellow and saffron-red, accentuated by V-shaped patterned bands or panels running width wise along the arms up to the wooden ears and nocks (where the bow’s hues darken slightly), both sides enhanced with black lines. The back of either arm, towards the ears, is decorated to match the oval grip: the double medial ridges widen into short double ears, and the strongly recessed grip, as well as the lower section of the ears, shows a dense, lustrous décor of delicate, leafy boteh / buta. Each wooden ear is signed (probably the maker’s signature) with undecipherable Arabic lettering.

Recurved chahār-khan or ‘four curves’ bows form a type described in Kitāb Hidāyat al-rāmī (‘The Archer's Guide’) by Muḥammad Budah'ī, written around 1500 AD.[1] Their shape is severe, comprising a deeply setback handle with one to three rows of sinew on the back of the bow. They represent an older kind of composite bow, reminiscent of the ancient Scythian form. It is thought that chahār-kham bows were probably once in widespread use among much of the Indian subcontinent, but production continued the longest in Sindh, from where this example is thought to originate[2].


European art market


[1] The manuscript Kitāb Hidāyat al-rāmī was purchased by the British Library in 1983 where it remains today. The work was dedicated to Husayn Shāh, ruler of Bengal from 1493-1519 A.D.

[2] See Edward McEwen; The chahār-kham or "four curved" bow of India, Elgood (editor), Islamic Arms and Armour, London Scolar Press, 1979


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