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Shahjahan’s dagger to go under hammer

The exquisitely beautiful masterpiece which is part of a late Belgian textile magnate's collection will be sold by the International fine art auction house, Bonham on April 10.
Hindustan Times | By Vijay Dutt, London
UPDATED ON APR 09, 2008 12:42 PM IST

The gold encrusted dagger that Mughal Emperor Shahjahan once carried, will be sold by the International fine art auction house, Bonham on April 10. The base bid price will be up to £500,000 (Rs 3.9 crore).

The exquisitely beautiful dagger, dated 1629-1630, is from the collection of the late Jacques Desenfans, a Lyon-based Belgian textile magnate who had a passion for Islamic, Indian and Southeast Asian history and culture.

He acquired it from an Armenian who was shopping in London with the dagger hanging on him, said Katherine Sanne of Bonham. The Belgian was intrigued when he saw a silver plaque with inscription in gold at the bottom of the dagger. Well-versed in various languages, he read the script which listed the honorary titles of the Emperor, and immediately bought it, Sanne said.

The inscriptions on the blade include Shahjahan’s official titles, date and place of birth, and the honorific parasol (an ancient pan-Asian symbol of divinity of royalty).

The dagger has been put on sale by the family of Desenfans. “We had it examined by expert conservators. They certified that it belonged to the Emperor,” Sanne told HT. She is confident that it would fetch at least £500,000.

In an article written for Bonham’s magazine, William Dalrymple said, “The Emperor’s love of beautiful and precious objects — damascened and gold-embellished blades, enamels and hammered metals, precious lapidary, inlaid hardstones and inscribed gems — was something many visitors commented on.” According to Edward Terry, the chaplain to the British ambassador, Shahjahan was “the greatest and richest master of precious stones that inhabits the whole earth”.

Also on sale at Bonham is a gem set, gold and feather-topped crown from the Royal Nepal family. It is estimated to fetch £80,000 (Rs 6.2 lakh).

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