Weapons - Quiver and Bow-case

Origin and time: Ottoman, around 1550
KHM (Museum of Fine Arts), Vienna
Inv. No. C5, C5a (Collection of Arms and Armour)

The quiver and bow case made of pale leather are bordered by a red frame, which is densely decorated with fine spiral cirri of white leather. Within the frame red medallions are visible. The use of abstract ornaments based on stylized plants is typical for Ottoman arts. Curved spiral cirri combined with blossom buds decorating the given objects illustrate this characteristic feature of Ottoman arts.

The bow was stored in the bow-case, which was larger than the quiver. Together with the scimitar, it had become one of the symbols of Ottoman armament. Even after the introduction of firearms, the Ottoman army continued using bows and arrows. The production of an Ottoman bow took up to ten years, depending on its quality. In the production process, several layers of hard wood, buffalo horn and animal sinew were stuck together with fish glue. Every step of this procedure involved a long drying time, which in turn caused the long production time. With these composite bows the Ottomans were able to shoot the arrow as far as 800 metres. Thanks to a ring made of metal or horn, which was slipped over the thumb, an Ottoman archer was able to draw the bow much more effectively than an archer using the European technique, in which the trigger finger and the middle finger were used.

Reflex bows are named after their characteristic tendency of bending back into their natural curve. In order to string a reflex bow, it had to be bent against its natural curve. As the different layers of wood, horn and animal sinew strived to return to their original forms, such a bow was already under high strain, which was increased when the archer drew the bow. Due to the different layers of glue applied, Ottoman bows were highly sensitive to humidity. In order to protect the bow from humidity, the inner side of the bow, where the layers of animal sinew were glued together, was coated with a thin layer of painted parchment. For the same reason and to make it easier for the archer to fight in close combat, the bow was stored in the bow-case after usage. Ottomans carried the bow-case (sadak) on the left and the quiver (tirkes) on the right side.

Since bows played a significant role in the Ottoman martial tradition, sultans delighted in giving these weapons, together with the corresponding bow-cases, as presents to European diplomats. It is very likely that this bow-case with its extraordinary 16th century design was given to the imperial family as a present, as most of the Oriental showpieces were diplomatic presents.