A kilij sabre




Ottoman Empire


Second half of the 18th century


Forging, casting, chiseling, damascening, gilding


Steel, brass, gold, horn


Overall length 855 mm; blade length 705 mm

The watered steel blade of conventional form is decorated on both sides with intertwined arabesques (rumi) that chiseled in relief against a gilded ground. In addition, there is a raised panel with a gold koftgari cartouche on each side at the forte. Cartouches contain Arabic inscriptions reading “Allah has willed it” and “I put my trust in Allah” (Quran 11:56). The grip is formed by two dark brown horn scales attached to the tang by two brass rivets. The pommel of typical shape features a brass-encased through channel to attach a wrist strap. The grip strap and faceted cross-guard are made of brass as well. No scabbard. 

COMMENT. Kilij is the traditional Turkish sabre, which is closely associated with both the Ottoman Turks and the Egyptian Mamluks. The original Turkish term kılıç (kylych) simply means "sabre" and used in Turkey as a general term for all local sabres, except for shamshir called şimşir and acem kılıç, literally "Persian sabre". The principal feature of the kilij is a yelman, that is, the raised, usually sharpened back edge in the final third of the blade, which greatly adds to the cutting power. The kilij was appeared and spread in the 16th century, but it continued to evolve. Due to trade and military expansion of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish sabres as early as the 16th century became widely known not only in West Asia and North Africa, but also in Europe, where they had a significant impact on the development of local sabre types. The classical version of the kilij sabre, which is often referred to as pala, was formed in the 18th century and used until the late 19th century. 

The blade of this sabre belongs to the group of Ottoman watered steel kilij type blades decorated on both sides with chiseled relief rumi motifs in against a gilded ground. In addition, there are usually two raised panels with gold-damascened calligraphic cartouches. All these blades were probably manufactured in Istanbul during the second half of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Ottoman sabres with similar blades can be seen in some notable museums and private collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (inv. no. 32.75.300), the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (inv. no. 51.26), the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds (inv. no. IX.3778, see Richardson, T. Islamic Arms and Armour. – Leeds, 2017. – P. 51), the Wallace Collection in London (inv. no. OA1944), the Croatian History Museum in Zagreb (inv. no. HPM/PMH-11574, see Šercer, M., Tomičić, J., Bregovac-Pisk, M., Borošak-Marijanović, J. Znamenja Vlasti i Časti u Hrvatskoj u 19. Stoljeću. – Zagreb, 1993. – No. 70), and the State Historical Museum in Moscow (inv. nos. 374, 1820 and 8417, see Аствацатурян Э.Г. Турецкое оружие в собрании Государственного Исторического музея. – Санкт-Петербург, 2002. – C. 105-107). For other similar examples, see Кулаков О., Сарычев М., Воронцов М., Гвоздевич А. Холодное оружие Донских казаков: Иллюстрированный альбом. – Воронеж, 2013. – С. 84-85; Bonhams: Antique Arms, Armour & Modern Sporting Guns. Monday 8 June 2015, San Francisco: [Auction Catalogue]. – San Francisco, 2015. – Lot 5000; Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion. – London, 2013. – P. 217, no. 535 and pp. 220-221, no. 540; Vaabenhistoriske Aarbøger. Vol. XXXV / Redaktør A. Orloff. – København, 1989. – S. 33, no. 29; San Giorgio. Asta 32: Armi Antiche e Militaria. Genova 26-27 Gennaio 2013: [Asta catalogo]. – Genova, 2013. – Lotto 447. 

LITERATURE: 1) Косарєв Р.В., Нефедов В.В., Рівкін К. Зброя доби козацтва: Каталог історичних артефактів XV-XVIII ст. в 650 світлинах. – Київ, 2017. – С. 231; 2) Кулаков О., Сарычев М., Воронцов М., Гвоздевич А. Холодное оружие Донских казаков: Иллюстрированный альбом. – Воронеж, 2013. – С. 69; 3) Сіваченко Є. Холодна зброя Сходу з колекції Олександра Фельдмана: [фотоальбом]. – Харків, 2009. – С. 11; 4) 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. 92-93, №18.