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CNG Islamic Auction 2

Lot nuber 329

Ottoman Empire. Abdülhamid II. AH 1293-1327 / AD 1876-1909. Gold Imtiyaz Medal (37mm, 36.18 g, 12h). Dated AH 1300 (AD 1883). Superb EF.

CNG Islamic Auction 2
Lot: 329.
 Estimated: $ 15 000

Post-Mongol Dynasties, Ottoman Empire and the East, Gold

Sold For $ 11 000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Go to Live

Ottoman Empire. Abdülhamid II. AH 1293-1327 / AD 1876-1909. Gold Imtiyaz Medal (37mm, 36.18 g, 12h). Dated AH 1300 (AD 1883). In upper cartouche: three-line die-struck legend reading Devlet-i Osmaniye ugrunda fevkalade ibrâz-i sadâkat ve secâat edenlere mahsus madalyadir (‘Medal of Merit for outstanding loyalty and bravery on behalf of the Ottoman Empire’); name of recipient al-Imam Yahya Hamid al-Din engraved in curved band below; die-struck date ‘1300’ (the year in which the award was instituted) in frame at bottom. / Toughra of Abdülhamid II, set on sunburst, above trophy of arms with cannon to right and scales of justice to right. Pere 1112; Erüreten p. 252. Tiny piercing at where original suspension (now lacking) would have been affixed. Superb EF. Much original lustre remaining. Extremely rare.

The Imtiyaz Medal (Imtiyaz Madalyasi) was the highest-ranking military award in the Ottoman Empire, instituted by Abdul Hamid II in AH 1300 / AD 1883. It was generally reserved for heads of state amongst Turkey’s allies, but was evidently occasionally bestowed on other senior military or diplomatic figures. The first recipients of the Imtiyaz Medal were the Emperors of Germany and Austria-Hungary, whose awards were accompanied by letters from the Sultan dated 30 December 1883 (although the specimen named to Kaiser Wilhelm I is engraved with the date ‘7 Dhu’l-Hijja 1300’, which equates to 9 October 1883). As made, this medal would have been suspended from a red and green silk ribbon, with an elaborate gold openwork suspension bar somewhat similar to the decoration beneath the trophy of arms on the medal itself, connected to a relatively plain suspension loop which was fixed to the medal disk by a simple gold pin. This design seems not to have been particularly robust; other gold Imtiyaz Medals lacking the suspension (as here) are also known, and the specimen named to Kaiser Wilhelm I (Gorny & Mosch auction 197, 9 March 2011, lot 7152, sold for €140,000 hammer) appears to have had a far simpler suspension featuring a plain gold rectangular bar.

Yahya Muhammad Hamid al-Din (18 June AD 1869 – 17 February AD 1948) was born into a branch of the Qasimid dynasty. Following gradual Ottoman incursions into Yemen during the 9/16th century, al-Mansur al-Qasim, the first Qasimid ruler, launched a fightback against the Turks. Under al-Mansur’s son, al-Mu’ayyad Muhammad (AH 1029-1054 / AD 1620-1644), the Turks were driven out and the whole of Yemen was unified under Qasimid rule. However, Qasimid rule began to decline from the late 10/16th century onwards, and Turkish forces began to re-establish themselves in Yemen during the 13/19th century. By AH 1289 / AD 1872, Ottoman forces had once again occupied the Yemeni capital, San‘a.

Yahya became Imam in AD 1904 following the death of his father, Muhammad al-Mansur. While the Ottomans had stripped the Imams of their secular powers, treating them merely as local religious leaders, Imam Yahya nevertheless retained considerable authority in the mountainous areas of North Yemen and began launching a series of uprisings against Ottoman rule in AD 1905. By AD 1911, the fighting had reached a stalemate, with the Ottomans facing the prospect of war with Italy in Libya, and local support for Imam Yahya’s rebellion beginning to crumble. A negotiated settlement suited both parties, and on 18 October 1911 the Treaty of Daan was signed by Imam Yahya and the Ottoman Governor of Yemen, Ahmet Izzet Pasha. Under the terms of the Treaty, Imam Yahya would rule the seven highland districts of Amran, Kawkaban, Dhamar, Yarim, Ibb, Hajjah and Hajjur, which would be governed under Sharia Law rather than Ottoman civil law, while the Ottomans would retain the coastal district of the Tihama. Meanwhile, Imam Yahya agreed to relinquish the title ‘Commander of the Faithful’, which he and his predecessors had previously held, in exchange for an undertaking from the Ottomans to support him against any future rivals to the Imamate as well as a generous subsidy from the Ottoman treasury.

The Ottoman Empire fell at the end of the First World War, and news of these developments reached Yemen on 14 November 1918. Three days later, Imam Yahya entered San‘a where, following meetings and discussion with tribal leaders and other prominent dignitaries, he was proclaimed supreme ruler of all Yemen. Ottoman officials who were prepared to stay in Yemen were retained in post, with a view to maintaining an effective administrative infrastructure. A regular army was formed in 1919, and army cadets were being sent for training in Iraq by the 1930s. The first of many treaties which acknowledged Yemen as a sovereign state was signed with Italy in 1926, and following the Saudi – Yemeni War of 1934 the border between these two countries was fixed under the terms of the Treaty of Taif. However, Imam Yahya refused to recognise his southern border with the British Aden Protectorate, resulting in friction and occasional clashes between Yemen and the British authorities.

Imam Yahya was shot and killed during an attempted coup on 17 February 1948. Following his assassination, a member of the rival Sayyid dynasty, Abdullah b. Ahmad al-Wazir, seized power for several weeks before being overthrown and executed by Saudi-backed forces led by Imam Yahya’s son, Ahmad. Ahmad b. Yahya remained as ruler of the Yemen until his own death in 1962.

Throughout his life, Imam Yahya refused to have his portrait painted or his photograph taken. The image shown here comes from the frontispiece to Ameen Rihani’s book Arabian Peak And Desert, Travels In Al Yaman (1930). If it is an accurate likeness of Imam Yahya, it was presumably drawn from memory.

The final winners of all CNG Islamic Auction 2 lots will be determined during the live sale that will be held on 27 October 2022.

Winning bids are subject to a 22.5% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and 25% for all others.

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