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Arms & Armour Gallery

The aesthetics and craftsmanship of Islamic arms and armour have long captured the imagination of the world. Many cultures have put considerable effort into beautifying the arts of war, but in the Islamic world there is a spiritual dimension as well.

Collected for centuries as weapons, and much respected by their opponents in warfare, these objects stand out as works with a sculptural quality. Whether used for practical or ceremonial purposes, they are an enduring reminder of the weaponsmith’s advanced sense of aesthetics and commitment to his craft. The arms and armour are often opulently decorated in techniques such as damascening, engraving, inlay and enamelling as well as being set with precious gems. It is common to see a weapon or piece of armour covered with designs that may be floral, arabesque, geometrical or occasionally figural.

The greatest advance in metalworking was the development of watered steel, associated with Damascus and used throughout the Islamic world. Flexible and yet able to take the sharpest edge, it was ideal for the highest-quality swords, daggers, axes, maces and spears. There are a wide variety of regional weapon types. The most easily recognisable of these are short, curved daggers and long, curved scimitars.

With the arrival of firearms, aesthetics remained a priority and the imagination of the Islamic gunsmith soared. Rifles and pistols were ornamented in spectacular fashion. Typical decoration would include inlays of gold, silver, ivory or mother-of-pearl on the lock, stock and barrel

Tipu Sultan Rifle

Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore lived from 1750 – 1799. The royal firearms of his era are unique in design and feature the bubri motif -- in the shape of a tiger head with the epithet “The Victorious Lion of God” . This is found on almost everything of the era, from his throne to his soldier’s uniforms. The featured Tipu Sultan rifle is adorned with bone inlay as well as images of animals.