A Trabzon style kilij sabre




Ottoman Empire


19th century


Forging, repoussé, embossing, damascening, gilding, filigree


Steel, copper, brass, gold, corals, turquoise, wood


Overall length (without scabbard) 810 mm; blade length 645 mm; scabbard length 820 mm

The watered steel blade of conventional form is decorated in gold koftgari with arabesques (rumi) and inscriptions on both sides. On one side of the blade, there is a lobed cartouche with the Arabic inscription "Allah has willed it". Nearby is a separate long inscription without a cartouche, representing the Ottoman Turkish couplet "Let it not comes near to you to take your soul / Let it not spares the enemy and saves you in battle". On the other side of the blade, there is a hexagram-shaped cartouche containing a short Arabic inscription "For Allah". The hilt has a typically shaped pommel and down-turned quillons. All parts of the hilt are set with numerous drop-shaped coral cabochons and small round turquoise cabochons in bezel mounts. The obverse side of the scabbard is decorated en suite with the hilt, while the left side is ornamented with a rococo style scrollwork and foliate borders in repoussé. There are two scabbard bands each with one brass suspension ring.

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 origin of the coral-studded Turkish weapons is commonly associated with Trabzon, a major city on the Anatolian Black Sea coast, which was the important centre of arms manufacturing in the Ottoman Empire. Similar sabres 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 National Museum of the History of Ukraine in Kiev (inv. no. 3-55, see Національний музей історії України: [Альбом]. – Т. 2. – Київ, 2013. – C. 263, №398), the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (inv. no. В.О.2649, see Художественное оружие из собрания Государственного Эрмитажа: Каталог выставки / Под ред. М.Б. Пиотровского. – Санкт-Петербург, 2010. – С. 109, №207), and the State Historical Museum in Moscow (see Аствацатурян Э.Г. Турецкое оружие в собрании Государственного Исторического музея. – Санкт-Петербург, 2002. – С. 112).

For other similar examples, 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. 90-91, №25; Скраливецкий Е.Б., Ефимов Ю.Г., Образцов В.Н. Восточное оружие в частных собраниях. – Санкт-Петербург, 2013. – С. 236, №132; Bonhams: Antique Arms & Armour Including Items from the Dr. Ernst-Joachim Rogahn Collection. Wednesday 27 November 2013, London, Knightsbridge: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2013. – Lot 38; Bonhams: Eastern Arms & Armour: From the Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection. Wednesday 29 April 2015, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2015. – Lot 174; Bonhams: Antique Arms, Armour & Modern Sporting Guns. Wednesday 17 & Thursday 18 May 2017, London, Knightsbridge: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2017. – Lot 56; Christie’s: Antique Arms and Armour from the Collection of Dr. & Mrs. Jerome Zwanger and the Property of Various Other Owners. Tuesday 12 December 2006, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2006. – Lots 260 and 261; Christie’s: Art of the Islamic and Indian World. Thursday 26 April 2012, London, South Kensington: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2012. – Lot 275; Christie’s: Islamic & Indian Works of Art & Textiles. Friday 27 April 2012, London, South Kensington: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2012. – Lot 852; Christie’s: Art of the Islamic and Indian World. Thursday 9 October 2014, London: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2014. – Lot 120; Christie’s: Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds Including Oriental Rugs and Carpets. 27 April 2017, London, King Street: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2017. – Lot 13; Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion. – London, 2013. – P. 209, nos. 507 and 508; Hermann Historica München. 56. Auktion: Ausgesuchte Sammlungsstücke: Alte Waffen, Kunsthandwerk, Orden & Militärhistorische Objekte. 9. Oktober 2008: [Auktionskatalog]. – München, 2008. – Los 393; Hermann Historica München. 60. Auktion: Ausgesuchte Sammlungsstücke: Alte Waffen, Kunsthandwerk, Orden & Militärhistorische Objekte. Donnerstag, 14. Oktober 2010: [Auktionskatalog]. – München, 2010. – Los 2632; Pinchot, O.S. Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of Fine Eastern Weapons. – Woonsocket, 2014. – P. 76, no. 4-44; Sotheby’s: Arts of the Islamic World. London, 25 October 2017: [Auction Catalogue]. – London: Sotheby’s, 2017. – Lot 214; Thomas Del Mar Ltd: In association with Sotheby’s. Antique Arms, Armour & Militaria: London, Wednesday 12th December 2007: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2007. – Lot 25; San Giorgio. Asta 63: Armi Antiche e Militaria. Genova 28 Maggio 2016: [Asta catalogo]. – Genova, 2016. – Lotto 58; Tirri, A.C. Islamic Weapons: Maghrib to Moghul. – Miami, 2003. – P. 67, fig. 37A.

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. 90-91, №17.