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Ceremonial dagger

unknownlate 16th century

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Budapest, Hungary

During his seventeen-year reign from 1613 to 1629, the Prince of Transylvania, Gabor Bethlen, received numerous diplomatic gifts. These artworks, such as these highly valuable ornamental weapons, came mostly from Istanbul and were delivered by ambassadors from the Sultan’s court. Some of these works later played an important role in the grooming and strengthening of Bethlen’s diplomatic connections. Frequently the prince would present objects he had stored for several years in his treasury in Gyulafehervar (today Alba Iulia, Romania) to various European rulers (usually Protestant ones). The ambassadorial trips abroad were organized and prepared by Count Imre Thurzo (1598–1621), a strong backer of the prince and the energetic head of his foreign policy. Thurzo died unexpectedly in 1621, however, and several diplomatic gifts were never delivered to their intended recipient. Instead they remained in Thurzo’s castle in upper Hungary (Arva, today Oravsky Hrad, Slovakia) and were eventually inherited by Erzsebet Thurzo (1621–1642). The daggers may have met this same fate. Erzsebet Thurzo was barely seventeen when she was married to Istvan Esterhazy (1616–1641), son of the Hungarian palatine, Miklos Esterhazy. These two splendid works of Turkish weapon makers and jewellers were deposited at this time in the treasury of the Esterhazys’ castle in Frakno (today Forchtenstein, Austria), after a brief detour in Transylvania and northern Hungary.

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