During its majestic heyday in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the north Indian city of Lucknow enjoyed an unprecedented flowering of the arts. Capital of the province of Avadh (Oudh), it boasted the wealthiest and most ostentatious court and cityscape in northern India. The cultural arts at Lucknow reached a peak under the Mughal governor Asaf al-Daula (reigned 1775–97).
The Art Museum’s chape, or terminal fitting for a sword scabbard, is an exceptional example of the pierced metalwork produced during that period in Lucknow. Made of gilded silver, it is decorated with an engraved openwork pattern of a meandering tendril interspersed with gilt blossoms, rosettes, and stylized irises; the front is adorned with six peacocks shown foraging in the foliage. Technically the chape is a major feat; it was manufactured from a single sheet of silver, which was cut in openwork design, folded along its top edge, and skillfully joined with solder at the bottom. The Art Museum’s chape originally graced a wooden scabbard for a sword of Indo-Muslim style (shamshir).