Flintlock Gun

Location: Ottoman Turkey

Materials: wood, steel, ivory or bone, silver, gilt copper, brass wire

Dimensions: 114cm (length)

Accession Number: MTW 1165

Other Notes:

The inlay of the pattern-welded barrel is in silver wire and includes an Ottoman couplet, ‘I took this musket into my hands [and] the enemy cried mercy. Those escaping its bullets rejoice’. The fact that the inscription is in Ottoman Turkish is important, since this type of gun has sometimes been claimed as Iranian.

The barrel is rifled and is attached to the understock by embossed gilt copper bands. The stock is lavishly inlaid with stained bone or ivory, ebony, and brass wire – possibly gilt – in minutely worked circular medallions combined into bolder repeating patterns.

The veneering and inlay  of musket-stocks with fine woods, ivory and gold, silver or brass wire was part of a woodworking tradition that developed early in the Ottoman empire; the Qur’an chest made in 911 AH (1505–6 AD) for the mosque of Bayezid II in Istanbul, which was inaugurated in 1505, bears the signature of such an inlayer, Ahmed ibn Hasan. In his account of Bitlis in 1655–6, Evliya Çelebi gives a list of muskets by the most reputed makers allegedly in the collection of Abdal Khan, the ruler of that principality. The stocks were of fine woods – walnut, maple, hornbeam – though evidently undecorated, and were often sold separately.

The 1640 Istanbul fixed price register (narh defter) shows conclusively that even the most costly firearms were available on the market in Istanbul. It demonstrates that even if the craftsmen who offered them for sale primarily supplied the palace, they were prepared to manufacture firearms to individual order or for suppliers’ stock, in short, for anyone sufficiently affluent to buy them. An entry under the listing of Tüfengciyan (‘musket-makers’) translates roughly as ‘musket with a barrel of watered steel and with silver joints, nielloed gold openings, and the stock bound with silver wire, inlaid with silver and encrusted with coral, 4800 akçe’. Such pieces were evidently parts of sets with matching pistols [see MTW 1162].


D. Alexander, The Arts of War. Arms and Armour of the 7th to 19th Centuries, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume XXI, London 1992, cat.76, pp.132–3.