An Exceptional Dagger, or Khanjar 17th-18th century

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Item ref: 4007

  • India
  • Mughal. Jade, gold, ruby and steel
  • 43.5 x 9.5 cm


Frederick H. North Works of Art, June 1972
Private collection, UK

The code for fashionable dress of the nobility in northern India under the Mughals and their successor states included the wearing of highly decorated daggers which reflected the wearer’s social standing and prestige. Animal headed daggers became popular early in the 17th century and were reserved for nobles of the highest rank. A close study of Mughal miniature paintings reveals the restriction of these animal-headed daggers to a small number of princes and senior dignitaries (Welch 1985, 257–8). The most popular medium for the hilts of these daggers was jade, either nephrite or, later, jadeite, imported from Central Asia, reflecting the Timurid heritage of the Mughal court.

Compare a near identical hilt in the Royal Collection, RCIN11450, presented to King Edward VII as Prince of Wales during his tour to India in 1875–6 by Mahbub ‘Ali Khan, Nizam of Hyderabad via his minister SalarJung I in Bombay, and exhibited in Splendours of the Subcontinent at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace in 2018.