• Art of the Islamic and Indian  auction at Christies

    Sale 7843

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    13 April 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 97

    A SAFAVID CARVED STEEL AXE-HEAD

    IRAN, 17TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A SAFAVID CARVED STEEL AXE-HEAD
    IRAN, 17TH CENTURY
    The steel blade of typical curved form, with heavy socket to accomodate the shaft and t-section extension to the other side, each face of the blade with a panel near the shaft with finely engraved cusped arch containing scrolling arabesques and issuing a small pendant, one of them inscribed, all outlined in gold, similar outlined bands of floral decoration running around the edges, the socket for the shaft with an inscribed band and with engraved floral decoration
    9½in. (24cm.) long


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    The inscription on a late 15th century axe-head of similar shape, although with a slightly less pronounced profile, in the Musée des Arts décoratifs, gives an interesting clue as to the function of these arms: it was dedicated to a dervish named Sayyid Hajji 'Abbas al-Qudsi, and was probably never used in combat (Robert Elgood (ed.), Islamic Arms and Armour, London, 1979, pp.113-5). Axes of this shape seem instead to have been part of dervishes' equipment and also appear to have been endowed to shrines of saints or Sufis. This puts into context an inscription on an axe-head in the Tanavoli Collection dated 1796-7 praising a local saint or Sufi (James Allan & Brian Gilmour, Persian Steel, the Tanavoli Collection, Oxford, 2000, ill.G.12, p.316-7).

    The present axe-head, with a profile which is not exaggeratedly curved, retains its efficacy. The decoration is also more sober than that visible on a ceremonial axe in a private Danish collection dated circa 1700 which has a pronounced hook-like profile (A.V.B.Norman, Islamic Arms and Armour from private Danish Collections, Copenhagen, 1982, No.80). These two features as well as the line of naskh slightly verging on nasta'liq engraved on the top, which is a script rarely used on Safavid metalwork, support a 17th century dating.

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