Saber (Kilij) with Scabbard

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

About the work

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This sword sports a bit of trickery. Its steel blade bears the signature of Haji Sunqur, a famous 16th century Istanbul-based swordsmith, but the blade was made in Iran, in the late 18th or early 19th century. Perhaps a subsequent owner added the signature, in an attempt to increase the sword’s value or invoke the power of the historical swordsmith. The scabbard and curved hilt were made in either Turkey or North Africa in the 19th century. Also called a pistol grip, this style was popular in the region. After Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, the pistol grip spread to Europe and North America. European and North American soldiers called it a “Mamluk saber.” The sword’s materials are as international as its manufacture. It contains wood, steel, gold, leather, and rhino horn, a rare material sourced from Africa or South Asia.

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