Czar Treasures From the East

A trove of spectacular objects from the Kremlin’s collection highlights Ottoman opulence

Turkey, before 1656. Used by the czar during military processions and inspections, this saber of the Grand Attire is a remarkable work. The finest jewelers associated with the Ottoman court created the saber and scabbard. The blade contains an Arabic inscription, which reads, “May you pass your time in bliss.” (The Moscow Kremlin Museums)

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The Russian noblemen loved the boldness and color of the Ottoman and Safavid style, says Melnikova, and the Eastern designs began to influence Russian arts. Craftsmen in the Kremlin workshops—Russians and foreigners—might be tasked with creating something in a Turkish pattern. One Russian-made quiver and bow case from the 17th century is embroidered with large gold and silver carnations, and without documentation, it would be difficult to tell whether the piece is Russian or Turkish, she explains.

Russia’s fascination with Eastern arts ended late in the 17th century with Peter the Great, who shifted his attention to the West and moved the capitol from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Peter wanted to start new traditions and make new friends in Western Europe, Melnikova says. He wasn’t drawn to the extravagant style and slow, ceremonial way of life in the East.

Yet he knew the value of the Ottoman and Safavid treasures, and he preserved them in the Kremlin treasury. No longer in use, the gifts became museum riches.


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