The Saxon state’s magnificent collectionof Turkish and Turkish-styleobjects originated in the late sixteenthcentury and has been called the Türckische Cammer since at least 1614. However,the bulk of its contents have not beenpublicly displayed for the past seventyyears. A lavish new permanent exhibitionof about six hundred items hasbeen opened on the second floor of the Residenzschloss in Dresden, part ofthe first phase of returning the armoryto that palace. The collection bearswitness both to Saxony’s long andcomplicated relationship with Turkeyand to the prestige accorded Ottomanimports by European rulers. Some ofthe earliest pieces arrived in Dresdenin 1587 as diplomatic gifts to ElectorChristian I from the grand duke ofFlorence and the dukes of Savoy and Mantua. Later additions includethe extensive holdings accumulatedin the late seventeenth and earlyeighteenth centuries by Augustusthe Strong, including two painstakinglyrestored silk Ottoman tents,once used by the elector for fancifulTurkish-style festivals and now ondisplay thanks to a sensitive lightingdesign intended to protect theseprecious objects. Other highlightsinclude opulent ceremonial harnessespurchased (along with anumber of horses and camels) forAugustus by his diplomatic envoyJohann Georg Spiegel, which arefestively displayed on life-sizedmodels of Arabian stallions. Rarelypreserved leather drinking vesselsthat hint at everyday life in the OttomanEmpire are also on view,along with Turkish-inspired objects midproducedby Transylvanian craftsmen,recording the long-standingfascination that this sometimeenemy, sometime friend—but alwaysexotic—culture held for its Europeanneighbors.
An extensive catalogue as wellas a book of selected highlightsfrom the Türckische Cammer havebeen published to accompany theopening.
Photos: Reflex bow, quiver garniture, and arrows, Ottoman,sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.Bow: carved wood with sinew, horn, silver foil,and silver gilt; length 43 1/2 inches. Quivers:leather, velvet, silver, and silver gilt; length ofbow quiver, 27 3/4 inches. Rüstkammer, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.
Details of three dagger hilts, Ottoman,mid-sixteenth century. Carved ivory andsilver-gilt (left and right) and carvedand painted ivory (center); overalllength of center example 38 1/2 inches.Rüstkammer.