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Old 13th December 2005, 01:15 PM   #1
wolviex
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Question Trebizond arms with huge amount of corals?

Hello All!

I just wanted to provoke a new discussion about parade weapons from todays Turkey territories - sabres, kinjals, firearms with hundreds of red corals and green and blue chalcedons set on scabbards, handles, stocks etc. in shape of rosettes,flowers, in rows and other geometrical configurations. I wonder about place of origin of these weapons. Here in Poland they are placed as from Trebizond - Turkish country on the coast of the Black Sea, in medieval times with his own rulers, then incorporated by Ottoman Empire. They're are probably from the first half of the 19th century, but it seems to me that some of these weapons might be even from the 2nd half of the 18th c. Next what bothering me is their rarity or non-rarity. I wonder how many of such objects we know from other museums, collections, auctions, and how are they noticed - as good and valuable or just as a hang-walls.

Regards!
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Old 13th December 2005, 01:31 PM   #2
Jens Nordlunde
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Wolviex, it is always a pleasure to see your pictures, and it is an interesting question you ask. Unfortunately I can’t participate in the discussion, as my interests go in another direction, but I think you will be surprised how many of these kind of weapons you will find, and to my opinion they were court/parade weapons.

Jens
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Old 13th December 2005, 03:45 PM   #3
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I WOULD AGREE WITH JENS THEY WERE FOR COURT, PARADE OR ANY OTHER SPECIAL OCCASION BUT WERE USUALLY FUNCTIONAL WEAPONS. THEY MAY HAVE DEVELOPED BECAUSE OF VALUE OR BELIEFS IN POWERS ATTRIBUTED TO THE CORAL AND STONES OR COLORS USED OR JUST BECAUSE IT LOOKED GOOD TO THE LOCALS. IT WOULD CERTIANLY BE A SYMBOL OF POWER AND WEALTH WHEN WORN ON PUBLIC OCCASIONS AND MAY HAVE BECOME THE FASHION AT SOME PERIOD OF TIME OVER A WIDER AREA.
MOST OF THIS TYPE OF DECORATION HAS NEVER APPEALED TO ME BECAUSE OF THE WAY THE SILVER (WHITE METAL) LOOKS. THE EXAMPLES YOU SHOW ARE MUCH BETTER THAN WHAT IS USUALLY SEEN AND I DO LIKE THEM BUT IN MY OPINION THEY WOULD LOOK BETTER IN STERLING SILVER.
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Old 13th December 2005, 09:47 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
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Hi Michal,
Absolutely breathtaking weapons! Although many would consider such weapons ostentatious, one cannot deny the beauty of the work, and I especially admire the corals. It seems these corals are seen on a number of Ottoman produced weapons, and these were often produced as presentation weapons for influential Ottoman figures in the considerable detente between regions under their suzereignty and European powers in the latter 18th-early 19th centuries. In the display catalogue for the Richard Wagner collection privately published some years ago, such weapons are seen, one miguelet completely encrusted in corals, and presented by the Dey of Algiers in the early 19th c. It is noted these weapons were often crafted with turquoises, rubies and garnets in the taste of Russian and Polish courts, presumably in their favor.

Dr. Zygulski in his essay "Islamic Weapons in Polish Collections and Thier Provenance" (1979, Elgood, "Islamic Arms and Armour" p.213), notes that Poland developed an affinity for certain Turkish styles in about the second half of the 18th century, and Turkish arms had become exceedingly popular among the gentry from the many trophies acquired. It is suggested that many of these weapons were created in Istanbul, while many sabres with drooping quillons made in India of karabela form, and known as 'indyczka' (Indian like) were available.

I would presume the dominantly coral items somewhat rare as that motif seems somewhat unusual, and that suggestion was made in a discussion some time ago, possibly by Mr. Wagner when discussing the Algerian miguelet in his collection.

I am under the impression these sumptuous sabres, and such like decorated weapons in general, are presentation items of probably late 18th to mid 19th century, and likely were mounted in Turkey, and purchased for such use by influential Ottoman figures and thier courts.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 13th December 2005, 09:55 PM   #5
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Is the reason for the seed or teardrop shape of the corals known? Virtually every weapon decorated in this way that I have seen has the coral in particular with this shape.
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Old 13th December 2005, 10:47 PM   #6
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hi michal,
i'm afraid i row in the same boat as jens, so can only offer a hatful of images (you did mention the rarity and existence of similar pieces). i too believe these to be 'parade' pieces, although some are known to have older blades. i have always thought the indian equivalent are jade hilts daggers - same quality in blades but hilts move them away from the battlefield and into the court.

hi jim
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Old 13th December 2005, 10:50 PM   #7
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Old 13th December 2005, 10:51 PM   #8
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Old 14th December 2005, 01:05 AM   #9
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Wow!!! Incredible photos Brian!
I have always been fascinated by coral, and to see such profuse application as on these weapons is amazing.
Mark, I think the teardrop shape may pertain to the ancient Greek mythology that claims coral represents the drops of blood from the slain gorgon Medusa. Apparantly coral was esteemed in the East, and especially in India, where it held mysterious and sacred properties including of course protection from the evil eye. It is noted by Pliny that the Gauls used it in decorating weapons and helmets as well, and considerable trade was carried out in the Meditteranean with coral, much of it found along the North African coast.
The amuletic value seems to derive considerably from the blood color and that it is virtually a living mineral derived from the sea.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 14th December 2005, 08:33 AM   #10
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Thank you all. There is no doubt these are mostly parade weapons, especially the sabres, which are quite uncomfortabale, with thick and full of corals handles. Firearms seems to be more practical, thought beauty of these weapons (however very Turkish in style and splendour) are indicating their court significance. I found that many of pistols on pictures from Brian are a little in different style then sabres, knives or long firearms - with bigger, plain and different in shape corals. We can see they're described as Algerian. Brian - what is the description of sabres which are similiar to mine? Turkish or Algerian too?

I didn't say they are rare, I was just wondering about their "rarity or non-rarity" . I believe, if in Poland we have few outstanding objects like these, then in Turkish museums you can probably find many and many of them. However, looking in google on the net I couldn't find many of them, maybe they have some individual names?

I found also that my sabre is a little unusual comparing to the other posted here. Among the corals you can find plain green and blue stones with engraved inscriptions (repeating Allah and Mohamed). Other sabres are without such feature.

All the best
Michal
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Old 15th December 2005, 07:41 AM   #11
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I wanted just to remind old discussion about Erilikhan's dagger:

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There is even Azerbaijan mentioned as a place of origin! I'm still wondering what we really know about the manufacture(s) which made these weapons.

Regards!
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Old 16th December 2005, 01:30 PM   #12
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I just figured out another and most popular name for country from where (as I suppose) these weapons come:
TREBIZOND = TRABZON
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Old 12th January 2006, 07:28 AM   #13
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Very interesting subject indeed, Michal... One comes across them slowly but consistently. What I can add for sure is that such decoration was never popular in regimental version but rather in presentation to high rank officers.
In less ceremonial and more bellicose forms I could definitely tell you that, for sure, they were a lot more popular with the irregulars or brigands of the empire, from pandours and hajdouks to the bash-bouzouks, at least that’s to whom most of the ones that bear proofs of war have been normally attributed to. Most of them date between 17th to 19th centuries, with the peak somewhere in the middle. I believe I eve recall some poetry or folktales talking about a famous Romanian haiduc (hajdouk) from Wallachia that had its famous hand gun fashioned like it.
They were popular ornaments and their usage was not restricted to weapons of course, one would fond them on other ittems like bags, scabbards or belts.
Funny enough I remember my mother had a necklace from her mother, a full string of coralite, which if sectionate well would make perfect cabochon decoration for a weapon. (hmmm.... devilish grin...)
In Western European cultures for example when such decorations were spotted, if I remember correctly, the weapons were known as “a la Turque”, meaning Ottoman style. I very much agree with the europinion that they are true Ottoman influence; what better proof one could ask for but to observe exactly where they come from: the Porte and its sphere of influence and trade. Therefore, you can see them all over it, from the nimchas and Kabhyl muskets of Maghrib and Algeria to swords from Russia, Arnaouti miquelets, Transylvanian and Hungarian palas or Caucasian qamas and I am sure your beloved Poland is no exception.
As a personal observation, pertinent I hope, however, nowhere near being a "rule of thumb" but worth considering is that decoration coralite when from Northen Africa (Maghrib, Algeria & Egypt) tend to be tear shaped, European (from Istanbul to Budapest) tend to be round pea like to ovoid, whilst Middle Eastern (including most of Anatolia) to Caucasus favored ovoid to linear ones... That applies just to the coralite not really to the turquoise and its keen.
Its hard to say how many are from Trabzon or even how many are strictly Turk, I preffer referring to them in a little more broad terms according to the times, it wasn’t much of Trebizond or Turkey, it was the whole empire’s fashion, it was Ottoman but definitely this region deserve its praise on the matter but like anything beautiful and fashionable, it tends to be quickly adopted and then produced somewhere else (ex. Damascus steel, recurved bow, soap opera and noodles)...

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Old 13th January 2006, 02:00 PM   #14
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Most of the photos posted above belong to qamas,daggers and swords of semi-nomadicTurcoman origin, starting from Azerbaijan's Caspian sea shore and Northern Iraq to west, well through west-central Turkey,more concentrated in Eastern Turkey. Four of the swords are of Sultan Murad 4 (1630s).The pistoles which look as if covered with huge corals and in fact NOT coralled. The red material is old form of acrylic and I doubt about their Algerian origin very much. Once one of them was auctioned in an auction house here, and an Iranian dealer explained me it was Iran originated style, once widely used and still known method of coral or turquoise looking acrylic, even offered me to enter the auction and to win that pistol,so that he would take it to Iran, and make it copied exactly in numbers like 20-30 to sell abroad
Coralled and turquoised daggers were existing in village houses traditionally in western-central Turkey till 1960's, in miniaturized and simplyfied forms, red glasses started to be used instead of corals in 20th century. I have such miniature samples but still old,with real corals and will post their pictures when I find time.
regards

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Old 13th January 2006, 10:11 PM   #15
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No pun intended but is a little hard to draw the conclusion that they are mostly acrylic coral imitation, specially with high official presentation weapons, high rank officers or even sultans, furthermore when in many cases we refer to years 1600s... Later examples I wouldn’t doubt, just like bakelite and vulcanite embedded hilts past 19th century in Europe or "a la European" fashion including Ottoman...
Arabians claim the same about red coral; see even today the Oman jewelry, I personally own one, of silver aliage and red coralite beads...
The so-called "fire coral" is was most soughtafter coralite, which needed no dying. Most examples are from Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.
We also have to make the clear distinction between coralites and carnelian, the later was easily mistaken due to its resemblance, it comes not from a living creature but rather a gem, a crystal like chalcedony. Funny enough the word chalcedony comes from the name of a Greek town in Asia Minor (Wikipedia).
The carnelian was used on large scale for same purposes and its frequently seen yataghan hilt mounted on silver and ivory.

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Old 13th January 2006, 10:45 PM   #16
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I attach the pictures of the ones which especially look exactly like the one I had seen in the auction, and had chance to examine very closely. None of the red pieces looked like coral, and none had common coral age wear which show itself by little holes and color change. Color was too homogenous and fresh red. Corals can fade from none to less or more,partially or completely to pink, even through yellow-light brown by age and its shape deform, less or more shrinkage and minor holes. Some of the pistols like the ones with small pieces can have real corals but especially the ones I attach must not be coral or some other organic remnants. Of course, acrylic is the term which others told me, the definition can be wrong and something different perhaps. I would appreciate if there is any other suggestion. It can be true that they were used by nobles, even in Topkapi palace museum there is one exactly the same with these ones, but its red decoration doesnt look like real coral as well. I think, to carve and shape corals in so big and curving fragments without damaging it was very hard or impossible, and no way left else than to imitate it, if someone loved coral decoration so much and wished to have such an item. Like gold imitation gilding on cheap copper to serve sultans instead of using real solid gold to produce items.
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Old 13th January 2006, 11:03 PM   #17
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And this is the one which I examined in the auction and can bet are not real corals at all, but something chemical. It was introduced as "Ottoman pistol with corals"!
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Old 13th January 2006, 11:59 PM   #18
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The question about why the common teardrop or elongated shape is an interesting one. Confessing that I don't know the answer, I'll suggest a couple of possibilities that might apply. First, in terms of creating decorative patterns, there may be more flexibility using something that is elongated, i.e., narrower and more linear than a disk or cabochon of coral might be.

In addition, if one considers how to get the most decorative pieces out of a branch of red coral and eliminate the hole which occurs in the center of the stalk (which appears on Tibetan weapons, for instance, but is often obscured by a pin through it), the way to do it might be to cut cross sections of the stalk creating disks and then to halve the resulting disks and work them (an depending on the diameter of the coral and the desired size of the pieces, one might be able to make more than two pieces, with the "top" of the resulting stone being along the circumference of the disk and the bottom, as applied to the weapon being a "chord" within the circle of the disk). Moving from the center of the disk edge, one could polish down the stone so that its surface curves toward the edges where the disk was cut. Thus could the "hole" be removed and pieces could be created with a significant but minimal arc, possibly saving material while not having the pieces either flat or bulging too greatly. This would not necessarily argue for why a teardrop instead of an ellipse or the shape of a joinery biscuit (i.e., an ellipse with pointed ends--geometry mavens, help me out).

And, if one simply wanted round pieces, one could presumably cut the stalk lengthwise and then shape the sides into round pieces, but with a loss of perhaps more material where the circles would intersect along the length.

But I guess we'd have to ask someone who works coral for applied decoration (as opposed to beads) for a definitive answer.
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