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Lot 182. An Ottoman or Tartar silver-gilt mounted saddle, Turkey or Crimea, First half 18th century, 19in. (48.2cm.) long. Estimate £50,000 - GBP 70,000. Price realised GBP 134,500. © Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Of typical form with raised knop at the front, the curved wooden frame with gilded mounts engraved with cusped cartouches containing rococo floral designs on punched ground and bordered with raised strapwork bands, the seat of the saddle covered with green velvet embroidered with metal-thread floral decoration, leather flaps on either side also with metal-thread decorated velvet covers lined underneath with red cotton, three leather straps and two iron buckles, minor losses.

NoteOf typical form with raised knop at the front, the curved wooden frame with gilded mounts engraved with cusped cartouches containing rococo floral designs on punched ground and bordered with raised strapwork bands, the seat of the saddle covered with green velvet embroidered with metal-thread floral decoration, leather flaps on either side also with metal-thread decorated velvet covers lined underneath with red cotton, three leather straps and two iron buckles, minor losses.

Two Ottoman saddles of very similar form, although with mounts decorated with gold plates set with rubies, emeralds and pearls, were presented to Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and his heir Tasrevich Alexei Alexeevich (1654-70) by the Greek merchants Avram Rodionov and Dimitrii Konstantinov (Treasures of the Moscow Kremlin. Arsenal of the Russian Tsars, exhibition catalogue, Leeds, 1998, no.7, pp.14-15). Gifted on 2 August 1656, these examples have a firm terminus ante quem. A number of published saddles exist in European collections, having been taken as war booty from the Ottomans after the siege of Vienna in 1683. Most of these - like ours - have gilt mounts elegantly engraved, sometimes to a greater extent than ours, with floral motifs or arabesques - and velvet wings with metal thread embroidery. For a number of published examples, see Ernst Petrasch et.al.Die Karlsruher Türkenbeute, Munich, 1991, nos.44-50, pp.118-27. 

The example however that seems most closely related to ours is in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden. Like our saddle the Dresden example has mounts decorated with a simple design of cusped medallions, almost rococo in style, on lightly pounced ground. The Dresden saddle also shares the distinctive feature of the plaited borders that frame the mounts. That example was gifted by the Tatar envoy to King August III of Poland in 1750. It is said that the original saddle was Tatar, but that it was embellished with the Ottoman silver gilt mounts before it was gifted (Holger Schuckelt, Die Türckische Cammer, exhibition catalogue, Dresden, 2010, no.335, pp. 326 and 346). This supports the suggestion of a date of the first half of the 18th century for our saddle.

Christie's. Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, 23 April 2015, London