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Turban Helmet

ca. 1450-1500

This is one of the most beautiful and important Islamic helmets to have survived to the present day. It belonged to the Orientalist painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, now regarded as one of the leading figures in the Western discovery of the Islamic arts, at the end of the 19th century. The helmet was shown in 1903 at the first great exhibition of Muslim art in Paris, a crucial landmark at the time for collectors. Bulbous in shape and of exceptional size, the dome was forged in a single piece with broad twisted grooves to suggest the folded fabric of a turban. The camail of chain mail, through which a detachable nasal or nose guard passes, protected the neck, ears and face. The knob on the top originally served to hold a plume adorned with jewels. This item belongs to a group of helmets decorated with vertical or spiral gadroons worn in the Iranian world and Anatolia from the 14th to the 16th century. Their shape, inspired by the turbans of the dervishes, and inscriptions evoke Sufi mysticism, which recommended “little sleep, little food, few words, introspection”. Long regarded as Mamluk helmets, they are now recognised as originating in Anatolia and specifically in the Turkoman Ağ Qoyunlu or White Sheep tribe in Diyarbakir, which extended its power in the 14th and 15th centuries over most of eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Iran and Azerbaijan. Numerous turban helmets were seized as spoils of war during the Ottoman conquest of the Caucasus and began to appear in European collections after the collection housed in the arsenal was broken up by Sultan Abdülmecid in 1839.

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Artwork Details

Title: Turban Helmet
Geography: Turkey, Aq-Qoyunlu or Ottoman
Date: ca. 1450-1500

Medium: steel with silver inlays, traces of gold

Classification: arms, military equipment, uniforms
Dimensions: 61 x 26 x 31 cm
Inventory number: LAD 2015.016
Contact for images: [email protected]


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