Knife with Mughal Pale Green Nephrite Hilt & Chinese Gilded Metal & Leather Scabbard
Indian & China
18th & 19th century
length: 52cm, weight: 649g
This very fine dagger comprises a pale green nephrite hilt carved in Mughal India in the eighteenth century which was then exported to China, where the steel blade and scabbard were added. Such Chinese-made daggers with Indian-made jade hilts became fashionable among wealthy merchants and government officials, and were given as presentation pieces. According to Teng (2012) who relied on palace records, Mughal daggers – jade hilts with blades attached – were imported by the Qing court and others from Mughal India. The blades were then removed and melted down and blades and scabbards that the Chinese found more to their liking were added to the hilts.
The scabbard is of wood, encased in red-brown leather, and with a gilded (gold-plated) metal locket and chape. The metal amounts are decorated with intricate floral and leaf patterns in high relief.
See National Palace Museum (2008, p. 174) for a similar example but with a hilt of black rather than green jade that is in Taipei’s National Palace Museum collection. Teng (2012, p. 117) illustrates a jade hilt also in the National Palace Museum collection that is very similar to the hilt on the dagger here. Both are carved with floral and leafy motifs and are not inset with gems.
The dagger is in fine condition. The blade is clean. The hilt is in perfect condition. The scabbard is complete but with only some minor shrinkage-related cracking along the leather upper edge. The scabbard, hilt and blade fit together perfectly. Overall, a fine and unusual piece and a good example of the product of trade between India and China.
National Palace Museum, Armaments and Military Provisions: The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, National Palace Museum, 2008.
Exquisite Beauty – Islamic Jades, National Palace Museum, 2012.Provenance:
UK art market
Inventory no.: 3201