Origin: Ottoman Turkey

Date: 16th century – 17th century

Materials: Wootz, gold, horn and silver


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This example features a horn hilt of familiar form. The horn is in fine condition with an excellent polish and precision fit. The tang is anointed in gold work in the form of tendrils, which wraps around the entirety of the hilt. At the top of the hilt is a pierced circular gold bolster with a hole in it for the original bullion sword knot or tassel. The hilt comprising the accustomed quillon block with gold work around the boarder. The gold boarder provides an excellent contrast to the almost black centre of the quillon block. As this is a Shamshir of fine form, the quillons are built to represent flower buds, which contain matching gold work to the quillon block. The gold is excellently preserved with the majority of it remaining in fine form.

The blade is of a Shamshir type, so it naturally curves for the final quarter of the length. This example also widens for the last quarter, allowing for a thick false-edge and prominent single fuller. The blade is of fine wootz, running for the entirety of the length with a very active and vivid pattern from tip to forte. The wootz runs along the edges of the sword and shows deliberate heat treatment on the edges. The blade was possibly a Persian import as it is a fine example.

There are various gold calligraphic inscriptions elegantly laced onto the sword blade in gold, some of which is very difficult to translate due to the age of the sword and the style of writing. On the spine of the blade the word ‘Rooh’ is written twice. Rooh in Arabic means ‘spirit’. This may be a reference, or to symbolise Angels. In Islam, there are various types of Angles, such as Maalik, Kiraman Karibin, Hafaza, Habib, Ridwan and Darda’il to name a few. Angles are seen as heavenly beings created by Allah. They are there to praise Allah, interact with humans, and to carry out the laws of nature. Angles are not only referenced in the Quran, but also in the Hadith and the belief in Angels is a core tenant of Islamic Philosophy and Theology.

The gold calligraphy on the blade appears to be in a ‘square Kufic ‘style (also known as masonry or banna’i script), which is very difficult to decipher since reading it has become a very specialised skill. The ‘square Kufic’ style script was used more for aesthetic purposes and as this example shows, it looks beautiful. There were similar examples sold at Christies Auction house and they state that these inscriptions are most probably a Quranic verse, dates and a makers name. For those examples, see the following:

  • Islamic Art and Manuscripts, London, 26th April 2005 – Lot 153 An Ottoman Sword (Kilij)
  • Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, London, 26th April 2012 – Lot 276 An Ottoman Sowrd (Shamshir)
  • Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, London, 9th October 2014 – Lot 103 An Ottoman Curved Sword (Kilij) with copper (tombak) sheath and hilt
  • Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, London, 9th October 2014 – Lot 109 An Important Curved Sword (Kilij) with silver-gilt fittings.

The wooden scabbard is wrapped in hide. The scabbard securely houses the Shamshir and is fit with its original four mounts, all of which are covered in gold along the boarder in a geometrical fashion. The two lockets at the centre of the sheath were traditionally used to tie the Shamshir to a sash for carrying purposes. Interestingly the gold work on the sheath is very deliberate and contains nice detailing. Notice the axe on the top mount.

All in all, a complete and rare Ottoman Shamshir of fine craftsmanship, possibly belonging to a general or one of a high status.

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