Magnificent Silver-Encased Long Sword (Dha)Burma
This is the finest Burmese long sword or dha that we have seen, published or otherwise. It is without any doubt a museum-quality piece and a significant and important item of 19th century Burmese silverwork.
The scabbard and hilt have a gentle curve which match the undulation of the steel sword inside.
The scabbard is finely repoussed with scenes from the Burmese version of the Ramayana. It comprises six scenes on each side (twelve in total) showing Sita and other characters at various points in the Ramayana story. The twelve figures are repoussed in very high relief and with exquisite fineness.
The handle section of the hilt is chased with three bands of foliage scrolls and terminates with a large, flattened sphere that is similarly decorated.
The blade is decorated with silver overlay on both sides with what is believed to the horoscope of the Burmese man for whom the
dha was commissioned. The designs on the blade include numerous figures in Burmese attire, buildings, a many lines of Burmese script. Such silver overlay is achieved by lightly scoring the blade with cross-hatching and then hammering silver wire onto the blade in the desired designs.
The form of an elaborately repoussed scabbard and a chased handle is in stylistic keeping with Shan presentation
dhas whereby the scabbards and hilts have stylistic differences. See Conway (2006, p. 155 for a less-fine example but which follows this schema. The hilt also terminates with a large, rounded finial.)
Other elaborate swords might have been made as presentation pieces perhaps to foreigners but the nature of the script on the blade suggests that this example was made for a very senior Burman or Shan aristocrat.
This dha is in excellent condition, with very minor age-related dents to some of the high-relief detail. But essentially, it is in museum-quality condition.
Conway, S., The Shan: Culture, Arts & Crafts, River Books, 2006.
Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.
Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, Robert Hale CI Ltd, 2013.
The Silverwork of Burma (with Photographs by P. Klier), The Superintendent, Government Printing, 1902.
Modern Burmese Silverwork (with Photographs by P. Klier), The Superintendent, Government Printing, 1904.
Dutch art market
Inventory no.: 3863