The Armourer

Fine arms at Olympia Auctions


Some of the estimates in Olympia Auction’s sale of Fine Antique Arms, Armour & Militaria on 7 December 2022 proved to be either gross underestim­ates or the equivalent of auction clickbait.

Lot 22 was a South Indian dagger from the 16th/17th century, from the Roy Elvis collection. Featuring a recurved blade formed with a pair of short fullers and reinforced at the point, pierced and chiselled iron hilt (pitted) extending over the forte with foliate langets, curved pierced oval guard drawn-out on each side to a small bud-shaped quillon. Plus, recurved knucklegua­rd formed as a silver-eyed heron, faceted bud-shaped finial flanked by a silver-eyed peacock on each side, and a pair of shaped green-jade grip-scales (the grips probably added in its early life), 38cm overall. Estimate was £600-£800, actual sale price was £13,000 (includes BP of 30%).

Also popular was a very fine and rare North Indian mail and plate shirt otherwise known as a zereh bagtar which dates from the 17th century. It was probably made in Bijapur and is inscribed to Maharaja Anup Singh who reigned from 1669-98. It beat the upper estimate of £8,000 and sold for £15,600. Sticking with India here was a rare South Indian Helmet, 16th century, with rounded bulbous skull of wootz steel rising to a moulded spike at its apex, fitted at the front with a hinged crescentic face-defence (restored).

On each side there was a hinged cheek-piece (one restored) and at the back with a short neck-defence. It sold for £9,100.

One of the highlights was a rare Scottish backsword with signed basket-hilt by John Simpson the Elder of Glasgow. It dates from c. 1690-1700 and featured a tapering blade, double-edged for its last quarter, formed with a long slender fuller running along the backedge and a further shorter slender fuller on each face, signed 'Andrea Farara' and decorated with a flower on each face at the forte (light pitting). It had a boldly formed iron basket-hilt of strongly fluted bars, incorporat­ing an aperture for reins with a curved bar top and bottom. The blade measured 82cm and it sold for £23,400.

There were plenty of Japanese blades, though most didn’t inspire the bidding frenzy seen on other lots. Here was a nice decorative Tanto dagger, dating to 18801900. Sugata (configurat­ion) featuring hira-zukuri (flat sided), copper habaki (collar); Hamon (tempering pattern). Koshirae (mounting) featuring carved bone saya (scabbard) decorated with carved and stained scenes including samurai, courtiers and a Dutch trader. It had a plain bone tsuba (sword guard), tsuka (hilt) with brass fuchi-kashira (collar and pommel) and applied copper alloy menuki (hilt grips). It sold for £156 against an upper estimate of £90.

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