A Fine and Rare Dagger or Khanjar, 18th - 19th century

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Item ref: 3849

  • Persia or Syria
  • Iron, gilding, silver, copper alloy, enamel
  • Length: 39 cm


Private collection, Europe

This dagger is typical of the highly ornate enamel works fashionable in the Qajar court. It has a plain, double edged blade of watered Wootz steel, and is fitted with a matching hilt and scabbard of copper alloy covered in enamel, with a design of pink flowers with, blue, green and yellow foliage on a white ground. The fashion for this style of enamel decoration probably came from Mughal India, where a number of imperial quality daggers with white-ground enamel hilts survive. A closely comparable Qajar dagger in in the British Museum, from the Henderson bequest, which includes another similar example with blue ground enamel. Another of the series, with green ground enamel, is preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the scabbard is signed by its maker, Mahmud, who may be responsible for all this group.

Similar enamel decoration is found on the scabbard of a dagger thought to have been presented by Fath ‘Ali Shah Qajar (r. 1797–1834) to Captain (later General) John Malcolm of the East India Company, who concluded the company’s first treaty with Persia in 1801, worked as private secretary to the Governor General Lord Mornington, and was a lifelong friend of his younger brother, the Duke of Wellington (Victoria & Albert Museum no. 1602-1888).