Monday, October 31, 2011

Mirza Ali Giray in a woodcut

I found this image on a cover of ''Rocznik Tatarski'' vol 1, (1932), a yearly publication from then Polish city of Wilno (now Vilnius) devoted to the history and then present culture of the Polish Tatars - 'Hieronim Lubomirski' from, thank you for the link.

According to pan Richard Brzezinski (Polish Armies, vol II, Osprey), this is an image of Mirza Ali Giray, one of the sons of the Crimean Tatar Khan (there were a few khans of the Giray family who ruled then ) who was the commander of the Tatar auxilia during the Ottoman Turk second siege of Vienna of AD 1683.
Well, according to the sources and the study of the history of the Crimean 'Khaganate' by the Polish preeminent Tatar history scholar Leszek Podhorodecki, the commander of the Crimean Tatars was the khan himself, Murat Giray (who perhaps quite nicely facilitated, by being inactive and withdrawing from the field, the Polish-Allied victory over the Turks and their allies). 
Nota bene, there was one Tatar commander who stayed to the end of fighting and defended the famous standard of the Prophet, but his was just a ''kalga (galga) sultan'' Haji Giray (with some 500-600 Tatars).

There are accounts of armored protection used by the Crimean Tatars and  pieces of actual armor surviving from the Crimean Tatars' arsenals (in various European collections), therefore this portrayal is not far fetched, and perhaps represents the aristocratic warrior elite of the Crimean warriors.
Please note that this type of representation of a nomadic warrior with a bow goes back to the Ancient Iranian (Persian, Parthian and Skithian) traditions.

What distinguishes this warrior here is the great portrayal of  his armor and accouterments of the Tatar warrior: the helmet with a pair of wings on top, perhaps in the ancient Turkish warrior fashion, bow and arrow, bowcase, sword, and a wing in a style not dissimilar to the wings carried by the Polish hussars attached to their saddles, and also similar to the wing in this painting showing the battle of Warsaw 1656 and Polish-allied Crimean Tatar participants fighting against the Swedes.

According to Mr. Brzezinski this engraving was done by Jacob Sandrart in 1684.


Kadrinazi said...

Hello Dario
There is also relation from 1653, where prisoners mentioned that high ranking Tatars have armour:

Herr von Anonim said...

It is of course, a 'fantasy portrait', that is, a dreamt-up image of how Mirza Ali Giray may have looked, not an actual portrait. It shouldn't be taken too literally - there were no photographers around in 1680s Austria. As is clear from the text of Brzezinski's book, the aim was merely to illustrate that some Tatars were better armoured and some may even have worn wings.

Dario T. W. said...

Hey Michal,
thanks - with your permission - the story goes that Polish military sent some comapnies of cavalry to take prisoners and a taken 'tongue' (the Old Polish name for captured enemy man providing intelligence, i.e. prisoner taken for purposed of gathering information), named ''Ganesta'' or 'Ganesty' from a Crimean Tatar unit of 'Kamamet Mirza' told its Polish interrogators that: mirzas (noblemen) had good horses, bows (arms) and armor, but the lower rank and file warriors had less of everything. He also told them that the Nogai Horde horses were 'fatter'(in good condition) while the Crimean Tatars horses were 'thinner' (in much worse condition)..

Dario T. W. said...

Herr von Anonim,
I thank you for your comment, but we all should know there were not yet cameras, but for camera obscura, at that time in Europe.
However, pamphlets with proximate or imaginary portraits of notorious or important personages of the times were popular, based in actual life portraits or descriptions by witnesses etc. Here we obviously have a description based image (perhaps an allegory even), as lot of the German states military men took part in the Vienna campaign and could have provided Herr Sandrart with description, especially so close to 1683. Moreover, Herr Sandrart resided in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and perhaps was acquainted with the Eastern way of riding horses, archery, and some elements of the clothing worn by the Commonwealth inhabitants, including the Tatars. Perhaps we will never know... Russian researcher M.V. Gorelik provides, in his reconstructions, plenty of images of noble Crimean Tatars that are quite armored and well armed..

Kadrinazi said...

Dario, my pleasure :)
Thanks for pointing to 'Rocznik Tatarski', both volumes are very interesting

Dario T. W. said...

Michal, my pleasure...

Samuel said...

Interesting discussion. IIRC Radek (in one of his papers) mentioned Commonwealth Tatars from 1570s sporting a wing.
Could you Dario explicate more on the alleged "ancient Turkish warrior " custom of having two wings upon one's helmet?