Origin: Qajar Iran
Date: 19th Century
Materials: Gold and Steel
A Safavid-Revival Shamshir (sword) from Qajar Iran dating back to the 19th century.
HISTORY OF THE SAFAVID-REVIVAL SWORDS
The sword is inspired by the Arms of the Safavid dynasty, which ruled Iran from 1501-1736 and holds its root in the Sufi tradition. After the demise of the Safavid dynasty, swords in Iran were reproduced to represent the quality of the Safavid period and to invoke martial spirit amongst the population. The origins of these inscriptions/etched blades is as follows: 'Many Sudanese swords blades were covered with calligraphic inscriptions, either real or pseudo-inscriptions (Fig. 3). Sometimes these inscriptions are connected to symbolic dates such as 1718 or animals such as the snake and the dragon. The Arabic calligraphy etched in the blade was typical ‘thuluth’ script. Thuluth is a script version of calligraphy invented by the Persian ofﬁcial ibn Muqlah Shirazi. Most often they were religious inscriptions from the Qur’an, but also these weapons wear the names of places of production like Omdurman and manufacturing dates. This type of decoration was also used on other Sudanese weapons including dervish axes and daggers. These calligraphic ornamentations will have been placed to serve a purpose. It is clear that the verses of the Qur’an, Arabic and the writing act in general as magical and symbolic elements. Calligraphy is present as a motif rather than as actual writing. Its main function is talismanic; sometimes lucky-charms or gris-gris are also attached to the handle of the weapon.' (see Sufi in War: Persian influence on African weaponry in the 19th century Mahdist Sudan by Stephane Pradines and Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani). The use of such weapons, such as our example, is clearly ceremonial. Such swords, strongly decorated with inscriptions, were made for processions that Shiites conduct on the holiday of Ashura (also known as Yawm Ashura is the tenth day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. For Sunni Muslims, Ashura marks the day that Moses and the Israelites were saved from Pharaoh by God creating a path in the Sea).
Our fine example features a 'Shamshir' style blade; curved with a single-edged acid-etched steel blade. The forte of the blade is finely etched with detailed birds amidst lush vegetal tendrils. The rest of the blade is filled with arabic calligraphic bands and with a snake design on the tip. Within the Islamic world of Arms and Armour, being able to touch or see objects with Quranic scripture was seen as a blessing and protection from evil, harm and sickness. Therefore the Quranic script on the blade is most likely (yet to be confirmed) an invocation to Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, Ali (the Prophets cousin) and a Benediction (a short invocation for divine help). Arms and Amour with such inscription are seen as Talismanic. The hilt on this sword is rare and unique as it has a rounded pommel and two stylised dragon heads to the base, with its original gold damascened flowers, roundels and tendrils to each side, with approximately 65% intact. In most cases the pommel is without any decoration, which would indicate that this particular sword was of high regard and made specifically for the owner or its ceremonial purpose.
Overall, this is a fine quality and example of a Safavid-Revival sword. The blade is in immaculate condition with no fault. This hilt with gold damascened work gives this particular sword a great and valued feel; not seen before on a similar sword, making this a scarce example of its kind.