Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Short Sword (Yatagan) from the Court of Süleyman the Magnificent (reigned 1520–66)

Sword maker:
Workshop of Ahmed Tekelü (possibly Iranian, active Istanbul, ca. 1520–30)
ca. 1525–30
Turkish, Istanbul
Steel, gold, ivory (walrus), silver, turquoise, pearls, rubies
L. 23 3/8 in. (59.3 cm); L. of blade 18 3/8 in. (46.7 cm); Wt. 1 lb. 8 oz. (691 g)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1993
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 380
Exquisite workmanship and lavish use of precious materials distinguish this sword as a princely weapon and exemplifies the opulence and refinement of Ottoman luxury arts. Almost identical to a yatagan (now in the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul) made in 1526–27 by the court jeweler Ahmed Tekel, for the Ottoman sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66), this sword was undoubtedly made in the same imperial workshop. The gold incrustation on the blade depicts a combat between a dragon and a phoenix against a background of foliate scrolls. These figures, like the gold-inlaid cloud bands and foliate scrolls on the ivory grips, are Chinese in inspiration, and were probably introduced into Ottoman art through contacts with Persia.

This sword is one of the earliest known yatagans, distinctly Turkish weapons characterized by a double-curved blade and a hilt without a guard. Yatagans were commonplace in Turkey and the Balkans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and served as sidearms for the elite troops known as janissaries.
Rex Ingram (1893–1950), Los Angeles; his estate sale, A. N. Abel Auction Company, Los Angeles, 1989Rifaat Sheikh El-Ard, London (until 1993; sold through Bashir Mohamed Ltd. to MMA).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009.

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

Pyhrr, Stuart W. "Workshop of Ahmed Tekelü (Iranian [?], active in Istanbul, ca. 1520–30), Yatagan." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin: Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1992–1993 51, no. 2 (Autumn 1993). p. 21, ill.

Pyhrr, Stuart W., Donald J. La Rocca, and Morihiro Ogawa. Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions, 1991–2002. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002. pp. 38, no. 34, fig. 14.

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. pp. 287, 312–13, no. 221, ill.

Alexander, David, Stuart W. Pyhrr, and Will Kwiatkowski. Islamic Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. pp. 152–54, no. 57, ill.

Samgin, Sergey, and Ariel Barkan. "A New Hypothesis of the Genesis of the Ottoman Yataghan: the Crimean Connection." Waffen- und Kostümkunde: Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Historische Waffen- und Kostümkunde 58, heft 1 (2016). p. 49, fig. 2.

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