Mughal Dagger with a Jade Horse-Head Handle
This Mughal dagger has a finely carved jade hilt in the shape of a horse head. The details of the horse’s face are wonderfully captured with ears facing back, nostrils flared and mouth slightly open. The eyes are heightened with semi-precious stones, set in gold using the Indian kundan technique. A short forelock hangs centrally above the horse’s eyes, while the mane falls gracefully down one side of the neck. Here the artisans have excelled in their use of carved jade, as dark inclusions in the stone appear along the horse’s neck, emphasising the details of the mane and bringing a lively quality to the piece.
A delicately carved neckband hangs around the horse’s neck, carrying a pendant in the shape of acanthus leaves. The pendant reaches the top ridge of one of three finger-rests along the side of the hilt. Below, the quillon block is carved with upward sweeping leaves that terminate in curls on either side, with an arrangement of acanthus leaves sprouting from the centre. The blade has a slight re-curve, and is ridged and double-edged. Comparable examples can be found in the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, Accession Number LNS 173 HS (see Kaoukji, p. 199), and in Hales, p. 36, no. 83.
Literature: Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, Robert Hales, England, 2013.
Kaoukji, S. Precious Indian Weapons and Other Princely Accoutrements, Thames & Hudson, London, 2017.