Lot 277
  • 277

An Ottoman sabre (karabela) with silver-gilt mounts set with turquoise and gold-inlaid jade panels, Turkey, second half 17th century

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
56,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • steel, gilt silver, jade, gemstones, turquoise
the 'karabela' grip with curved quillons, decorated with chased and engraved foliate vine motifs, set to one side with turquoise and gold-inlaid and gem-set jade medallion, the curved single-edged steel blade inlaid with gold inscriptions and foliate details, the leather-covered wood scabbard with chased and engraved silver-gilt lock and chape and further mounts all decorated en-suite to the hilt with inset turquoise and gold-inlaid gem-set jade plaques, two suspension loops 


Ex-collection Karel Javůrek (1815-1909), a known academic painter, Prague.
by descent to his son, Jaromír Javůrek.
Thence by descent.

Catalogue Note


In the long cartouche:
Qur’an, chapter LXI (al-Saff), part of verse 13.

In one of the cartouches, an invocation to God as:
‘O the Opener of [all] Gates!’

In the cartouches, a Persian couplet:
‘The sun draws a sword (a reference to the rays of the Sun) every day
In order to roast the heart of lovers’.

A richly-decorated Ottoman karabela such as the present item would have been a highly treasured gift among members of the Eastern European, and notably, Polish nobility or szlachta. These were so expensive that most noble families could afford only one ceremonial karabela. The prestige of the weapon, a symbol of Ottoman supremacy, was also closely tied to the culture and ideology of Sarmatism, an important part of szlachta culture from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries who traced their ancestry to the ancient Sarmatians, a people who inhabited the steppes North of the Black Sea in Roman times. Aspects of Sarmatism permeated throughout the cultural lives of the nobility, not just in literature and art. Noblemen wore ‘nomadic’ clothing, sported bushy moustaches and prided themselves on their martial prowess on horseback, distancing themselves from the ‘decadent’ nobility of Western Europe. Many members of the szlachta considered the Ottoman Turks and Crimean Tatars, also of nomadic descent, their peers, even if they were bitter enemies on the battlefield. Thus their arms and armour were modelled on the curved swords and scale armour of the Turks.

This exquisite karabela, although Ottoman-produced, did not end up in a Polish collection, but rather a Czech one, demonstrating an exchange between cultures that met not only on the battlefield but whose rich artistic traditions straddled Eastern and Western cultures.