A silver-mounted yataghan




Ottoman Empire (Balkans)


Early 19th century


Forging, repoussé, chasing, filigree, granulation, nielling, damascening, gem-setting


Steel, silver, gold, corals, wood


Overall length (without scabbard) 722 mm; blade length 565 mm; scabbard length 598 mm

The slightly forward-curved, single-edged blade is made of plain steel with a double fuller along the spine on each side. One side of the blade is decorated in gold koftgari with three calligraphic cartouches. They flanked by stylized floral motifs. The central circular cartouche contains the Solomon’s seal (Mührü Süleyman in Turkish) and the names of the legendary People of the Cave (Ashâb-ı Kehf in Turkish). The side cartouches contain Arabic inscriptions "The work of El-Hajj Nuh. The owner El-Hajj Mustafa Mum-Zade Abu Bekr" and "Year 1225" (AD 1810-11), as well as a double-repeated Ottoman Turkish couplet "May the master of this jewel be blessed / His dagger became the destiny for the enemy’s breast". The other side of the blade is decorated in the same technique with a stylized floral design. The hilt is encased in silver, and the pommel is formed by large angular "ears". The grip strap, pommel, bolster and reinforcing plate on the blade are decorated with filigree, granulation and small lozenges. In addition, the hilt strap is set with ten coral cabochons in bezel mounts and is applied with two small square nielloed panels. Another six corals are on the bolster and "ears". The wooden scabbard is encased in sheet silver and terminates in a stylized monster’s head. The upper section is decorated with five braided friezes, filigree and granulation, while the body is repoussed with a stylized floral design.

COMMENT. The presented example belongs to the group of Balkan yataghans. Silver mounts were manufactured in the city of Foča, located in in the southeast of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the blade was made by El-Hajj Nuh (or Hajji Nuh, Hadji Nuh, Hadži Nuh), a prominent Turkish craftsman who worked in the city of Prizren in the late 18th – early 19th centuries. During the Ottoman period (1455-1912), Prizren was not only the administrative centre of the Sanjak of Prizren, but also a major trade and craft centre with extensive external links. At present, it is part of Kosovo. It is known that the El-Hajj Nuh’s workshop was located in the largest Prizren bazaar called Arasta (see Elgood, R. The Arms of Greece and Her Balkan Neighbours in the Ottoman Period. – London, 2009. – P. 142, 144 and 328). Several examples of yataghans with blades by this craftsman can be seen in the Military Museum in Belgrade (see Elgood, R. Op. cit. – P. 142), in the Croatian History Museum in Zagreb (inv. no. HPM/PMH-3080, see Bošković, D. Zbirka Jatagana u Hrvatskom Povijesnom Muzeju u Zagrebu. – Zagreb, 2006. – No. 31), in the Benaki Museum in Athens (inv. no. 5875, see Elgood, R. Op. cit. – P. 194 and 328, no. 254), in the State Historical Museum in Moscow (see: Аствацатурян Э.Г. Турецкое оружие в собрании Государственного Исторического музея. – Санкт-Петербург, 2002. – С. 142, 149), in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg (inv. no. 3033-10, see: Малозёмова Е.И. Холодное оружие народов Ближнего Востока в коллекциях МАЭ // Образы и знаки в традициях Южной и Юго-Западной Азии. Сборник Музея антропологии и этнографии. Т. 61. – Санкт-Петербург, 2015. – С. 445-446, №22), and in the Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps in St. Petersburg (inv. no. 0116/1145, see: Анисимова М.А. Оружие Востока XV – первой половины XX века: из собрания Военно-исторического музея инженерных войск и войск связи. – Санкт-Петербург, 2013. – С. 98-102, №31). Two more examples were formerly in the Einer A. Christensen collection (see Hoffmeyer, A.B. Gammelt Jern: E.A. Christensens Våbensamling. – København, 1968. – Р. 231 and 245, no. 206, fig. 60; Bonhams: Antique Arms & Armour Including Items from the E.A. Christensen Collection. Thursday 28 November 2012, London, Knightsbridge: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2012. – Lot 18) and in the Richard R. Wagner Jr. collection (see Bonhams: Eastern Arms & Armour: From the Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection. Wednesday 29 April 2015, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2015. – Lot 56). For other examples, see Bonhams: Islamic & Indian Art Including Carpets. Thursday 8 April 2014, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2014. – Lot 183; Christie’s: Arts & Textiles of the Islamic & Indian Worlds. Friday 24 April 2015, London, South Kensington: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2015. – Lot 379; Mayer, L.A. Islamic Armourers and Their Works. – Geneva, 1962. – P. 67; Sotheby’s: Arts of the Islamic World Including Fine Carpets and Textiles. London, 14 April 2010: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2010. – Lot 248. Most of the recorded yataghans with blades by El-Hajj Nuh have distinctive silver hilts from Foča where they most likely were mounted.

LITERATURE: Сиваченко Е. Сталь и Золото: Восточное оружие из собрания Feldman Family Museum = Steel and Gold: Eastern Weapons from the Feldman Family Museum Collection. – Киев, 2019. – С. 148-153, №41.