8. Ottoman Turkey Trebizond Sword encrusted with coral and turquoise, circa 19th c. (ID: mc1257)
8. Ottoman Turkey Trebizond Sword encrusted with coral and turquoise, circa 19th c.
|( ID: mc1257 )|
Overall length: 101.6 cm
Blade length: 76.2 cm
Weight: 1.2 lbs
Price on request
The stones adorning the hilt and scabbard of the sword have talismanic significance in Islamic societies. Al-Biruni (1989) writes in his 11th century treatise titled Kitāb al-jamāhir fī maʻrifat al-jawāhir, or the Book on Multitudes (of information) on the Jewels, that turquoise, which he terms sabaj, dispels the evil eye if it is directed at the carrier of the stone. This is ascribed to the stone’s softness as it likely to break with the softest of shocks. Al-Biruni further notes that coral, or bussad, is found in the “sea around Syria and Rome, where it joins Ifranjiyah (land of the Franks),” referring to the Mediterranean sea between Syria and France. This likely refers to the species of coral called corallium rubrum, or “precious coral,” which comprises the coral inlays on this sword. According to Al-Biruni, coral was supposed to prevent misfortune.
Examples of these swords are found in institutional collections but always of differing levels of quality and condition. The Metropolitan Museum features two examples of similar composition and form (Acc. Nr. 32.75.300a, b; 17.190.2101a, b) in addition to another in the Stibbert Collection (Acc. Nr.6167 published in Civita 2014 and dated to 1725-1775). Other examples can be found in private collections (Hales 2013). This example is of fine quality retaining the entirety of the encrusted coral and turquoise with the corals delicately carved with ribbing running in a lengthwise manner. The decoration forms a unified design around radially concentric circles with turquoise and coral. The blade of classic kilij form with gold inscriptions likely dating to the mid-19th century.
The overall condition is excellent with nearly the entirety of the original gilding over the copper remaining, also known as tombac. The reverse of the scabbard is chiseled with traditional Ottoman floral designs and with the images of either the Hagia Sofia or the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, indicating the religious origins underpinning the traditions of Islamic warfare with which these swords were associated.
Al-Biruni (1989). Kitāb al-jamāhir fī maʻrifat al-jawāhir (The book Most Comprehensive in Knowledge on Precious Stones) Farlang: Islamabad.
Civita, F. (2014). Islam: armi e armature dalla collezione di Frederick Stibbert. Centro di della Edifimi. Firenze
Elgood, R. (2009). The Arms of Greece. Thames and Hudson.
Hales, R. (2013). A Lifetime’s Passion: Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour, nos. 507 and 508
Putnam, F. W. (1894). Oriental and occidental, northern and southern portrait types of the Midway Plaisance : a collection of photographs of individual types of various nations from all parts of the world who represented, in the Department of Ethnology, the manners, customs, dress, religions, music and other distinctive traits and peculiarities of their race : with interesting and instructive descriptions accompanying each portrait, together with an introduction. St. Louis : N.D. Thompson