Sultan Qaitbay (1416/18–1496) was one of the longest reigning Mamluk rulers of Egypt and a great patron of architecture. He is perhaps best remembered for building and renovating many mosques, shrines, citadels, and other monuments that still stand today in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and Israel. This armor, one of only four Mamluk examples known to survive, is unique for the elaborate gold-damascened ornamentation on the eighty-seven steel plates that protect its most vulnerable areas. In addition to panels enclosing Qaitbay’s name and titles, the plates are adorned with intricate scrolling foliage, running vines, and circular medallions enclosing six-pointed stars. The armor appears to have been seized by the Ottoman Turks following their conquest of Egypt in 1517, over twenty years after Qaitbay’s death, and was long kept as a trophy of war in the Ottoman arsenal in Istanbul.
Inscription: Inscribed in thuluth script on the plates: "Glory to our Sultan, the master, the king of the kings, the wise, the ruler, the just al-Ashraf Abu al-Nasr Qaitbay, the Sultan of Islam."
Marking: Engraved on the interior of the third uppermost plate in the left vertical row of the front left side of the torso: the mark of the Ottoman armory of Saint Irene in Topkapı Saray, Istanbul.
Made for Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf ad-Din Qaitbay, Cairo (by d. 1496); presumably deposited in the Mamluk armory, Cairo (after 1496); deposited in the Ottoman armory of Saint Irene, Istanbul (after 1516); Baron Antoine Fernand Vidal de Léry, Paris (before 1909); Rutherfurd Stuyvesant, Paris (by d. 1909; inv. no. M6); by descent through his family to his son, Alan Rutherfurd Stuyvesant, Paris and New York (1948–at least 1950); Christian IV de Guigne, Hillsborough, California (by 1996–2015; sale, Rock Island Auction Company, Rock Island, Illinois, December 5, 2015, no. 1262; sold to MMA).
Dean, Bashford. The Collection of Arms and Armor of Rutherford Stuyvesant, 1843–1909. New York: privately printed, 1914. p. 163, no. 218, pl. LI.
Rock Island Auction Company. A Premiere Collector's Firearms Auction, Presented by Rock Island Auction Company. Vol. II. Rock Island, IL: Rock Island Auction Company, 2015. pp. 118–9, lot 1262.