Name of Object:

Dagger handle


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum


Probably hegira 10th / AD 16th century

Type of object:

Arms, armours

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved ivory.


Length 13 cm, width 4.6 cm

Period / Dynasty:





A dagger handle made of ivory, carved with arabesque patterns and two narrow horizontal bands with circular motifs. In contrast to the popularity of ivory carving in other periods of Islamic art, such as under the Umayyads of Spain, Ottoman works in carved ivory are relatively rare. Those that were made, however, are exquisite; they include hand-mirror backings, belt segments, and dagger handles like this one. The surface is carved with arabesque motifs which strongly recall the so-called 'Baba Naqqash' style, a distinctive Ottoman idiom that employs traditional Islamic arabesques combined with Chinese elements, and one which remained fashionable in other media long after it had gone out of style in ceramics. An ivory dagger handle much like this one is owned by the British Museum (inv. no. OA 409), while a dagger made in AH 949 / AD 1543 in Ottoman-ruled Hungary has a gilt-silver handle with similar decoration (National Museum of Hungary, 55.3237). Such objects were undoubtedly made for the wealthy and powerful.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

Stylistic comparison (see description).

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1895.

How provenance was established:

Comparison with similarly decorated objects in ivory and metal known to be Ottoman.

Selected bibliography:

Allan, J., and Raby, J., "Metalwork", Tulips, Arabesques and Turbans: Decorative Arts from the Ottoman Empire (ed. Y. Petsopoulos), London, 1982, pp.25–6 (fig. 8a shows a dagger with a similar handle in gilt silver).

Rogers, M., "Osmanische Elfenbeinkunst," Türkische Kunst und Kultur aus osmanischer Zeit, Recklinghausen, 1985, pp.339–42 (fig. 10/2 shows a similar object in the British Museum).

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Dagger handle" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;uk;Mus02;50;en&id=arms_and_armoury

Prepared by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK2 68

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