4146

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Silver-Encased Dagger (Dha Hmyaung) with Ivory Hilt

Shan people, Burma
18th-19th century

total length: 39.5cm, weight: 348g

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Provenance

UK art market

This short sword is particularly notable for its fine condition and its superb patina. It is from the Shan people of eastern Burma. The scabbard is of wood encased in near-pure hammered sheet silver decorated with applied silver filigree in bands. The chape is unadorned and flares slightly at its end. The single-edged steel blade fits snugly into the scabbard.

The handle comprises a short segment of silver decorated with further silver filigree bands and a short piece of thick ivory carved possibly with a naga motif.

The ivory, like the silver, has a wonderful patina suggesting significant age and use. Indeed, the ivory has such extraordinary wear, having been worn down to a smooth surface by years of handling, that an eighteenth century dating might reasonably be suggested. The wear to the ivory is perhaps the most extreme that we have seen.

Overall, this is a very pleasing example of a dha hmyaung short sword or dagger. There are no losses and the excellent applied silver decoration is to both sides of the scabbard.

References

Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.

Lewis, P. & E., Peoples of the Golden Triangle: Six Tribes in Thailand, Thames & Hudson, 1984.

Lowry, J., Burmese Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1974.

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