Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Saber

Date:
1522–66
Geography:
probably Istanbul
Culture:
Turkish, probably Istanbul
Medium:
Steel, gold, fish skin, wood
Dimensions:
L. 37 7/8 in. (96.2 cm); L. of blade 30 3/4 in. (78.1 cm); W. 6 1/8 in. (15.5 cm); Wt. 2 lb. 5 oz. (1049 g)
Classification:
Swords
Credit Line:
Bequest of George C. Stone, 1935
Accession Number:
36.25.1297
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 380
This saber is fitted with one of the finest and best-preserved Islamic blades of the sixteenth century. Its gold-inlaid decoration consists of Qur'anic inscriptions that stress the sovereignty of God and the wisdom and power of his servant Solomon. These appear to be
clever allusions to the Ottoman sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. The equally opulent cross guard is chiseled in relief and damascened in gold, and was formerly inlaid with gems. The grip is a later replacement.
Inscription: Inscribed (on obverse of blade) Arabic (trans.: [long cartouches 2,4,6,8,10....20 in upper row] Verily we have granted thee a manifest victory: that God may forgive thee thy preceding and thy subsequent sin, and may complete his favor on thee, and direct thee in the right way; and direct thee in the right way; and that God may assist thee with a glorious assistance; it is he that sendeth down secure tranquility into the hearts of true believers, that they may increase in faith beyond their former faith; the hosts of heaven and earth are God's and God is knowing and wise, [Koran, sura 48, v. 1-4]; [small cartouches, 1,3,5,7,9-19, upper row, beginning obliterated] She [the Queen of Sheba] said: O nobles, verily an honourable letter hath been delivered unto me; it is from Sulayman and [this is the tenor thereof]: in the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate: Rise not up against me, but come unto me and resign yourselves unto Divine direction; [Koran, sura 27, v. 29-31, from the story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba]; [lower row, beginning obliterated, cartouche 21] In the name of God the merciful the compassionate, "Assistance from God and a speedy victory; and do thou bear good tidings to the true believers" [Koran, sura 61, v. 13]; [cartouche 22] God! there is no god but he, the living, the self-subsisting; neither slumber nor sleep seizeth him; to him belongeth whatsoever is in heaven,a nd on earth; who is he that can intercede with him, but through his good pleasure? he knoweth best that which is past, and that which is to come unto them, and they shall not comprehend anything of his knowledge, but so far as he pleaseth; his throne is extended over heaven and earth and the preservation of both is no burden unto him; he is the high, the mighty; [Koran, sura 2, v.255, so-called "throne verse"]; [cartrouche 23] and his armies [the armies of David] were gathered together unto Sulayman, consiting of genii [jinn] and men, and birds; and they were led in distinct bands; [Koran, sura 27, v. 17] God the mighty, speaketh the truth.)
(on reverse of blade) Arabic (trans.: [upper row, cartouches 24-26] Unto God belong the hosts of heaven and earth; and God is mighty and wise; verily we have sent thee to be a witness,a nd a bearer of good tidings, and a denouncer of threats; that ye may believe in God, and his apostle; and may assist him, and revere hima nd praise him morning and evening; verily they who swear fealty unto thee, swear fealty unto God; the hand og God is over their hands; whoever shall violate his oath, will violate [the same] to the hurt only of his own soul; but whoever shall perform that which he hath covenanted with God, he will surely give him a great reward; the Arabs of the desert who were left behind will say unto thee: our substance and our families employed us, [so that we went not forth with thee to war], wherefore, ask pardon for us; they speak that with their tongues which is not in their hearts; answer: who shall be able to obtain for youn anything from God [to the contrary], if he pleased to afflict you or is please unto you [to be gracious ? ] [Koran, sura 48, v. 7-middle of 11]; [lower row, cartouches 28,30,32,34,......46] that he may lead the true believers of both sexes into gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever; and may expiate their evil deeds from them; this will be great felicity with God, and that he may punish the hypocritical men and the hypocritical women and the idolators and the idolatresses, who conceive an ill opinion of God; they shall experience a turn of evil fortune, and God shall be angry with them and shall curse them and hath prepared hell for them; an ill journey shall it be [thither] [from Koran 48:5-6]; [lower row, small cartouches 27, 29,31-45] until they came into the valley of the ants, and an ant [seeing the hosts approaching] said: O ants, enter ye into your habitations, lest Sulayman and his army tread you under foot, and perceive [it] not; and Sulayman smiled, laughing at her words, and said, O Lord, excite me that I may do that which is right [and] well pleasing unto thee; and introduce me through thy mercy [into paradise] among thy servants the righteous. [Koran, sura 27, v. 18-19]; by Richard Ettinghausen, 1936)
George Cameron Stone, New York (until d. November 18, 1935; his bequest to MMA).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Islamic Art. "Bright Side of Battle," January 17–September 1, 1985.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arms and Armor from the Islamic World," February 10, 2016–January 2, 2017.

Dean, Bashford. Notes on Arms and Armor. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1916.

Grancsay, Stephen V. "The New Galleries of Oriental Arms and Armor." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16, no. 9 (May 1958). p. 246, ill. bottom.

Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor From the Permanent Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 49, no. 1 (Summer 1991). pp. 53, 64, ill.

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011.



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