Detail View: The AMICA Library: Yatagan

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Creator Name: 
Tekel, Ahmed
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Anatolian; Turkish
Creator Name-CRT: 
Made by the Workshop of Ahmed Tekelü
Title Type: 
Object name
Alternate View
Creation Date: 
ca. 1525-30
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Steel, walrus ivory, gold, silver, rubies, turquoise, pearl
Classification Term: 
L. 23 3/8 in. (59.3 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1993

Exquisite workmanship and lavish use of precious materials distinguish this sword as a princely weapon. It is almost identical to a 'yatagan' (Topkapi Palace, Istanbul) made in 1526 or 1527 by the court jeweler Ahmed Tekelü for the Ottoman sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520-66). There can be little doubt that the Metropolitan's sword was made in the same imperial workshop, probably for presentation to a high-ranking courtier.

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 on the ivory grip, are Chinese in origin and were probably introduced into Ottoman art through contacts with Persia. The extremely high relief of the delicately modeled goldsmith's work, and the use of rubies for eyes, silver for the dragon's teeth, and a pearl set into the phoenix's head, exemplify the opulence and refinement of Ottoman luxury arts.

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.

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