Pia-kaeta Dagger with Ivory Handle, Parcel-Gilt Silver Mounts, & Scabbard
Kandy, Sri Lanka
length when sheafed: 34cm; length of blade & hilt alone: 29.7cm
Examples of piha-kaeta daggers from Sri Lanka are not difficult to come by, but excellent eighteenth century examples are relatively rare. This is a superb example. The hilt is of ivory finely carved and detailed with a liya-pata pattern. The end is encased in a broad rounding of silver that has been chased with typically Ceylonese scrolling foliage and fruit motifs. From this is emitted a rounded tang button. The hilt is further embellished with six applied silver scrolling leaf motif plaques.
The blade is straight with a single edge. It is inlaid on both sides with vegetal motifs in brass; is inset and overlaid with sheet silver that has been chased with swirling flower bud and foliage motifs; and encased in a thick silver section that has been chiselled with extravagant, leafy patterns and engraved with more foliate scrolls that has then been parcel gilded providing an elegant and fine contrast between the gold and silverwork. The top of the blade is further decorated by chased silver sheet that has been let into the blade.
The scabbard is of two halves of grooved, light wood, the upper part of which has been encased in thin, high-grade silver sheet that has been embellished with filigree and pearled silver wire borders.
piha-kaeta is in excellent condition. There are no significant losses with any losses largely being restricted to fritting to the edges of the silver overlay. There is a minor repair to one side of the tip of the wooden scabbard. The piece has a wonderful patina, particularly the ivory hilt which has a warm, golden hue. Overall, it is a very fine example.
UK art market
Caravana, J. et al, Rites of Power: Oriental Weapons: Collection of Jorge Caravana, Caleidoscopio, 2010.
De Silva, P.H.D.H & S. Wickramasinghe,
Ancient Swords, Daggers & Knives in Sri Lankan Museums, Sri Lanka National Museums, 2006.
Visions of an Island: Rare works from Sri Lanka in the Christopher Ondaatje Collection, Harper Collins, 1999.
Inventory no.: 1484