These mysterious weapons were already obsolete when the first ethnographers encountered them.
Over belly, tip-tip: 132 cm
Over belly, nock-nock: 126.4 cm
47 mm wide
12.5 mm thick
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A fine North Indian composite bow. It is of a deeply reflexed type that is called kaman natively but frequently dubbed "crab bow" by today's collector community. Most of these date from the 18th century or earlier. By the 19th century, very few of them were made as archery practice gradually disappeared from north Indian culture.
This is a typical example in terms of construction, form and dimensions. The complex shape is achieved by a 9 piece core construction, held together with natural glue and lots of sinew. There usually is a relatively narrow strip of horn on the bellies of these, also covered with sinew, and therefore usually obscured from sight like on this one.
This bow is beautifully decorated, in a somewhat unusual style. The bellies are painted black, with designs of the boteh (Persian: بته), described as almond or pine-cone shaped motifs with a sharply curved upper end. Such designs became popular in Europe in the 18th century where they were called Paisley, after a Scottish town where many fabrics with such motifs were made.
The insides of the working limbs are decorated with gold lines on black in a style that is very Persian, with cartouches that depict animals hunting and hunted. Each limb shows four animals, in the order: running deer, running tiger, running tiger, running deer.
Grip and ears are painted a vermillion red. The insides of the ears are decorated with meandering vegetal patterns while the rest of the decor resorts to traditional Persian and North Indian stylized plant and geometric patterns.
In decent condition overall, with some scuffing of the old paint and lacquer here and there. What is left is in stable condition. One tip broke off, see photos.
A rather nice example of an Indian bow with decor that is more interesting than most, combining various North Indian and Persian decorative motifs in a tasteful color scheme. The rendition of the animals is almost whimsical, which adds to the joy of studying them.
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