A museum quality rare 18th century Kard with original sheath.
This is a unique example of a museum quality/level Kard (dagger) from the North India region, crafted in a style associated with the Mughal province of Oudh. The walrus ivory hilt is slim and in fine condition. The two grip scales are with excellent colour and patination. The four bolster that hold these portions of ivory are gold mounted which is consistent with the overall aesthetic of the Kard. The tang is shielded with gold damascened work, in the form of flowers and tendrils, and elegantly wraps all the way down and extents to the spine and forte of the blade; creating a uniform design. The decorated hilt is complete with the pommel lanyard ring (also referred to as a ‘Nath’ in India). A Kard retaining the lanyard ring is a sign of a fine weapon and one that has been excellently preserved. It is often rare to fine on an Indian dagger with the complete lanyard ring as in most cases they could not be preserved.
The blade on this fine Kard is of crucible (watered) steel, exceptionally rare, and in noble condition. The Wootz is dark, with loose grains, and forms a uniform pattern with swirls from the forte to the tip of the blade. The pattern is consistent with no interruptions to the crystallised patterns. The darker form of Wootz is more sought after and difficult to source.
In line with the fine quality of the Kard itself, the scabbard is no less. The original scabbard accompanying this Kard is covered in crimson red velvet. There are two mounts on the sheath. The silver mounts (the top mount with a matching lanyard ring) are engraved and enamelled silver, typical of Lucknow, where schools of enamelled metalwork flourished in the 18th century. The emerald design is in the form of flowers and leaves in the prominent and shinning colours of blue, red and green. These colours were a staple of the Lucknow schools in the 18th century. The technique for Enameling is very difficult. Dirk H. Breiding describes it as follows:
Enameling refers to several techniques that use vitreous paste fused to a metallic background. Recesses on a metal object, either cells formed by soldering wire to the base (cloisonné) or simple cuts or grooves (champlevé), are filled with colored glass paste. The object is then fired so that the powdered paste will melt and bond with the metal base. Finally, the surface of the object is polished smooth. Due to the expensive and fragile nature of enamel, it is almost exclusively found on weapons for ceremony and presentation (Met Museum article)
For comparable design examples, see The Met Museum, Accession number 36.25.1302a, b, 36.25.1304a, b and 36.25.650a, b. The Kard comfortably fits in the sheath and follows the traditional design of covering a portion of the hilt when in the sheath – to provide a stealth and regal look. The craftsmanship of this Kard is of such a high level, that we believe it held ceremonial and courtly responsibilities.
This is a very fine and extremely rare example of a complete Kard from the 18th century in a great state of preservation and in museum quality. A rare collectible for Indo-Persian Arms and Armour collectors.
Stephen Markel with Tushara Bindu Gude, India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow (published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art & DelMonico Books, Los Angeles, 2010)
Egerton, Wilbraham, Lord. A Description of Indian and Oriental Armour: Illustrated from the Collection Formerly in the India Office, Now Exhibited at South Kensington, and the Author’s Private Collection…. London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1896.
Stone, George Cameron. A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times, Together with Some Closely Related Subjects. Portland, ME: Southworth Press, 1934. p. 550, fig. 708, no. 4, ill.
Alexander, David G. The Arts of War: Arms and Armour of the 7th to 19th centuries. Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art ; v. 21, Vol. 21. London: Nour Foundation, 1992. p. 139.