The present work depicts two classes of Janissary soldiers, respectively peyk
infantrymen wielding their balta
axes, and solak
, denoting 'left-handed' in Turkish, wielding bows. Key components of the Sultan’s escort, it is likely the Sultan himself would have been represented on horseback to the right of the archers, who would commonly march beside their liege.
The fragment bears close similarity to manuscript albums of the late sixteenth century, commissioned by European courts from their ambassadors, notably those executed during the reign of Sultan Murad III (see, for example, those held in the Staats und Universitätsbibliothek, Bremen,
the Codrington Library of All Souls College, Oxford, and particularly the Codex Vindobonensis 8626, Bartholomeus Pezzen's album, in which the placement of the peykler
is particularly similar to the present work).
For a further example of the peyk bodyguards wielding balta in procession, see the exhibition catalogue War and Peace, Ottoman-Polish Relationships in the 15th-19th centuries (Kangal, Selmin, Turkish Republic Ministry of Culture, Istanbul 1999, pp.302, no.198 now in the Warsaw University Library T. 171, no.165). For a further illustration of traditional Janissary garb see Kangal, Selmin, for War and Peace, Ottoman-Polish Relationships in the 15th-19th centuries, Republic Ministry of Culture, Istanbul, 1999, pp.289-291, no.178-181.
We are grateful to Selen Etingu and Surbahan Nurdan for their assistance in cataloguing this work.