Dagger with Hilt in the Form of a Blue Bull (Nilgai), Hilt: Nephrite
Blade: Watered steel

Dagger with Hilt in the Form of a Blue Bull (Nilgai)

Object Name:
ca. 1640
Made in India
Hilt: Nephrite
Blade: Watered steel
H. 15 in. (38.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Alice Heeramaneck, in memory of Nasli Heeramaneck, 1985
Accession Number:
1985.58a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 463
The weaponry produced at the Mughal court reflects the same refinement as other portable arts. Daggers such as this one were sometimes awarded to officers who had distinguished themselves in military victory and were worn at court as dress accessories indicating royal favor. Animal-headed hilts were especially favored, and the realism of their rendering conveys the keen appreciation for nature by Mughal artists.
On this dagger, the hilt portrays a nilgai, or blue bull, one of the most beautiful animals found in India, and terminates at the base with a leafy scroll and lotus flower. Carved from a bluish-green nephrite that approximates the color of the animal, this hilt not only demonstrates the artist's thorough mastery of hard-stone carving, but also displays a level of accuracy and sensitivity that suggest close observation of a model, perhaps one of the captive animals kept in the imperial zoo.
#6732. Overview: Jade Daggers, Part 1
#6732. Overview: Jade Daggers
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Alice N. Heeramaneck, New York (until 1985; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "INDIA !," September 14, 1985, no. 168.

Los Angeles. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Romance of the Taj Mahal," December 17, 1989–March 11, 1990, no. 174.

Toledo, OH. Toledo Museum of Art. "Romance of the Taj Mahal," April 28, 1990–June 24, 1990, no. 174.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Romance of the Taj Mahal," August 23, 1990–November 25, 1990, no. 174.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 42 (1984–1985). pp. 8-9, ill. (color).

Welch, Stuart Cary. "Art and Culture 1300–1900." In India!. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1985. no. 168, pp. 257-259, ill. p. 168 (color).

Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 150-151, ill. fig. 116 (color).

Pal, Pratapaditya. Romance of the Taj Mahal. London; Los Angeles: Thames and Hudson, 1989–1991. no. 174, pp. 155, 161, ill. fig. 174 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, and Claire Moore, ed. "A Resource for Educators." In Art of the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 158-159, ill. pl. 31 (color).

Alexander, David G., and Stuart W. Pyhrr. "in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." In Islamic Arms and Armor. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. no. 83, pp. 212-213, ill. (color).