Help us bring life to art, and art to lives. Make a donation.

Art/ Collection/ Art Object


ca. 1450–1500
Steel, gold, wood
H. 28 1/2 (72.3 cm); H. of axhead 10 1/4 in. (26.0 cm); H. of handle 27 in. (68.6 cm); W. of blade 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm); Wt. 2 lb. 15 oz. (1341 g)
Shafted Weapons
Credit Line:
Purchase, Bashford Dean Bequest, 1969
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 379
The Mamluk sultans and emirs employed a special corps of ax-bearers, probably in imitation of the Varangian (Viking) guard of the emperors of Byzantium. The cup decorating the socket of this ax is the insignia of a Mamluk emir and indicates that he held the important ceremonial office of cupbearer to the sultan.
Ex. coll.: Alan Zasky.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bright Side of the Battle: Symbol and Ceremony in Islamic Arms and Armor," January 17–September 1, 1985.

Nickel, Helmut. "A Mamluke Axe." In Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, edited by Richard Ettinghausen. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 213-226. figs. 1,2.

Detroit Institute of Arts. "Recent Acquisitions of American and Canadian Museums." The Art Quarterly 33, no. 4 (Winter 1970). pp. 445, 457.

Howat, John K., Berry B. Tracy, Vaughn E. Crawford, Helmut Nickel, Hilde Limondjian, Bradford Kelleher, Kate C. Lefferts, Adolph S. Cavallo, Jacob Bean, Harry S. Parker III, Henry G. Fischer, Claus Virch, Stuart Silver, Fong Chow, Dietrich von Bothmer, Richard Ettinghausen, Louise Condit, Elizabeth R. Usher, Florens Deuchler, Dorothy Weinberger, Emanuel Winternitz, John T. Conger, Margaret P. Nolan, Dudley T. Easby Jr., John J. McKendry, Leon Wilson, Jack Frizzelle, William D. Wilkinson, Marica Vilcek, Henry Geldzahler, and John Goldsmith Phillips. "Reports of the Departments." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 29, no. 2 (October 1970). p. 66.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Oustanding Recent Accessions 32 (May 1970). p. 395.

Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. p. 42, ill.

Nickel, Helmut. A Mamluk Axe in Islamic Arms and Armour, edited by Robert Elgood. London: Scolar Press, 1979. pp. 149-161.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Stuart Cary Welch. The Islamic World. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 60, fig. 43.

Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor from the Permanent Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 49, no. 1 (Summer, 1991). pp. 50, 64, ill.

Alexander, David, Stuart W. Pyhrr, and Will Kwiatkowski. Islamic Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. pp. 231-232, cat. no. 94, ill.

Related Objects

Ax (Berdiche or Balta)

Date: ca. 1500 Medium: Steel Accession: 36.25.1829 On view in:Gallery 379

Lance Head

Date: ca. 1500 Medium: Steel, gold Accession: 14.25.474 On view in:Gallery 379

Armor for Man and Horse

Date: comprehensively ca. 1450–1550 Medium: Steel, leather Accession: 32.75.248,04.3.208,36.25.576,610,.1829... On view in:Gallery 379

Turban Helmet

Date: late 15th century Medium: Steel, gold, silver Accession: 04.3.209 On view in:Gallery 379

Mail Shirt

Date: probably early 16th century Medium: Steel, copper alloy Accession: 14.99.28 On view in:Gallery 379