There are numerous representations of the Emperor Jahangir wearing elaborately jewel-encrusted daggers of almost identical shape to our dagger. A miniature dated to circa 1630 from the Kevorkian Album held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 18.104.22.168v), depicts Jahangir wearing a dagger which also has a very distinct split pommel like our own dagger, meeting his father the Emperor Akbar wearing a more traditional triangular katar, (Stuart Cary Welch, Annemarie Schimmel, Marie L. Sweitochowski and Wheeler M. Thackston, The Emperors' Album: Images of Mughal India, New York, 1987, no. 11, pp. 100-1). A pen and Ink portrait of Jahangir by Balchand which sold in these Rooms, 7 April 2011, lot 258, also depicts the Emperor with a dagger with a split pommel tucked into his belt. A futher miniature depicting Jahangir in this sale, (lot 20) also illustrates him wearing a dagger of the same type. The form of this dagger has been labeled as a kard in an Ottoman or Safavid context, but is ultimately European in origin, (Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani, 'The Jewelled Objects of Hindustan', Jewellery Studies, Vol. X, London, 2004, p. 24). A long tradition of exchanging highly ornamented daggers as diplomatic gifts existed between Safavid Iran and Mughal India, which is probably how this dagger form was introduced to Jahangir's court, (Susan Stronge, 'Imperial Gifts at the Court of Hindustan', in Linda Komaroff ed., Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts, Los Angeles, 2011, p. 171). A slightly less luxurious bone-hilted jewel inset dagger of almost identical form in the Freer Gallery of Art is actually inscribed with the name of Jahangir, further confirming the Imperial associations of daggers of this form, (inv.F.1958.15.a-b; Melikian-Chirvani, op.cit, fig. 20, p. 25).
The form of this dagger might be European in origin but the mastery of the setting of the rubies and emeralds is a wonderful example of Indian craftsmanship. A jewel encrusted dagger in the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, dated to the reign of Jahangir, also has quillons with a fish-scale inset ruby pattern extending to large inset emerald insets on both terminals similar to our own dagger, (inv. 1984.332; Maryam D. Ekhtiar, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby and Navina Najat Haidar ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2011, no. 255, p. 365). Both our dagger and the Metropolitan Museum example have comparable very fine details carved into the gold settings surrounding the stones, suggesting that they are very likely to be contemporaneous. Our dagger however, unlike the Metropolitan Museum example, still retains its original blade. An emerald and ruby inset jade-hilted dagger also attributed to early 17th Century Mughal India in the al-Sabah collection, is decorated with pairs of birds and scrolling flowering vine similar to our own dagger, (inv. LNS 75 HS; Manuel Keene and Salam Kaoukji, Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals, London, 2001, no.2.10, p.34). This design of birds and flowers is thought to be Persian in origin. The flow of the inset scrolling flowering vine on the jade hilt of our dagger exemplifies a particularly Mughal imperial flare for naturalism. The combination of the European form and the technical excellence of our dagger is great example of the international and multi-cultural flavor of Jahangir's court. It is a great testament to the ability of the Mughal court to absorb and adapt originally foreign forms and combine them with exceptional local Indian craftsmanship to produce unique and treasured luxury objects.