Extract

The Elector’s Turkish Treasures

A visit to the Türckische Cammer in Dresden

The city of Dresden is now home to one of the finest displays of Turkish art and armoury

  • The Dresden envoy's Istanbul residence in the 1570s
  • The military review at Zelthain, 1730

Dresden was infamously left in ruins by Allied raids in 1945, but as the train pulls across the Elbe, the skyline still captures the thrill of its Baroque heyday. It is a miracle that there is anything left to see in Dresden’s museums, but there is: whole collections were hidden in castles along the Elbe, and after the war Russia returned what the Red Army had carted off. Now 70 years after it was closed, the palace’s ‘Türckische Cammer’ reveals Ottoman arms and armory in all their glory.

Saxony’s taste for things Turkish goes back to the 1570s, when David Ungnad was imperial envoy to Istanbul. The ambassadors’ caravanserai, which Ungnad had had repaired, can be seen in his secret Türckenbuch. A Saxon envoy in his party took home a gold-damascened Ottoman sword. The gift was clearly appreciated. The Electress then gave her husband a Hungarian sabre one Christmas, and the Medicis and the Dukes of Savoy showered him with Oriental gifts.

August the Strong (1670–1733), most colourful of Saxony’s Electors, often dressed as a sultan and would send his Turkish valet to buy kaftans in Istanbul. The painting above shows the military review at Zelthain, north of Dresden. It evoked memories of the 1683 Ottoman siege of Vienna, and involved 27,000 men, including Saxon ‘Janissaries’ armed with sabres. There were 1,051 tents in all.

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Issue 43, 2010 Shrines and Sanctuaries
£8.00 / $10.36 / 37.00 TL
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Issue 43, 2010 Shrines and Sanctuaries
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