Name of Object:

Sword

Location:

Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

Date:

Hegira 907 / AD 1501

Type of object:

Sword, ivory, arms, armours

Museum Inventory Number:

5267

Material(s) / Technique(s):

The blade: gilded steel; the crosspiece: gilt silver. The hilt is crafted from ivory; its distinctive colour indicates that it is rhinoceros horn.

Dimensions:

Length 93 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Mamluk

Provenance:

It is likely that this piece was forged in Cairo.

Description:

A sword composed of a double-edged curved blade, a crosspiece and a hilt. The crosspiece assumes the form of a cross: the short side is adhered to the hilt and blade, while the long side projects from the blade and runs perpendicular to it, ending in two oval ornamented units. The blade is decorated with gilt inscriptions, bearing the name of the Mamluk Sultan al-Adil Tumanbay, who ruled for several months only and was deposed in the month of Ramadan in AH 907 (1501). The inscription reads: 'The sultan, al-Malik al-Adil Abu al-Nasr Tumanbay, Sultan of Islam and the Muslims, Father of the Poor and Miserable, Destroyer of Infidels and Idolators, Reviver of Justice to all. May God grant him a lasting reign and may his triumph be glorious'.
In general, swords from the Mamluk Period were embellished with gilt inscriptions that included the name of the sultan and their title; occasionally verses from the Qur'an were also engraved on them. The office of the silahdar (weapon bearer) was one of the highest positions in the Mamluk state, thus amirs who ascended to this position often had the form of the sword represented in their blazons.
Islamic swords were forged from Syrian steel, which was considered one of the best available. Swords were crafted in two parts: a pliable iron foil and a rigid one, they were then hammered together.

View Short Description

Original Owner:

Al-Adil Sayf al-Din Tumanbay (reigned for a few months only, deposed Ramadan AH 907 (1501))

How date and origin were established:

The sword is dated based on the inscription carved on the blade: 907 (1501).

How Object was obtained:

This piece was bought in 1919 from an antiquities dealer, Janon.

How provenance was established:

It is likely that the sword was made in Egypt, particularly as it carries the name of Sultan Tumanbay, the ruler of Egypt at the time.

Selected bibliography:

Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1987.
Atil, E., et al, Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1985.
Stierlin, H., and Stierlin, A., Splendours of the Islamic World: Mamluk Art in Cairo (1250–1517), London, New York, 1997.
Ward, R., Islamic Metalwork, New York, 1993.
Yujal, O., (trans. M. O. Taha), Al-Suyuf al-Islamiya wa Sona'uha [Islamic Swords and their Manufacture], Kuwait, 1988.
Zaki, Abd al-Rahman, Al-Sayf fi al- Islam [The Sword in Islam], Cairo, 1951.

Citation of this web page:

Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad "Sword" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;ISL;eg;Mus01;7;en&id=arms_and_armoury

Prepared by: Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa HammadAl-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad

He holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities from the Faculty of Art, Cairo University and an MA in the same field from Assiut University. He has been working at the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, since 1974 and attended a training course at Vienna Museum in 1977. He has supervised sections of glass and manuscripts and, currently, coins. At the Museum he has participated in preparing exhibitions at home and abroad and has been a member of several inventory committees. From 1988 to 1999 he worked as a lecturer at Om al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and registered and organised the display of the acquisitions of the Civilisation Museum at the Shari'a and Islamic Studies Faculty at the University.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: ET 14