An Impressive Ottoman Palatial Gold Box Decorated With Diamonds And The Tughra Of Sultan Abdulhamid II (R. 1876-1909)
Presented by Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909) to Rear Admiral Charles H. Baldwin (1822-1888), U.S. Commander of the Mediterranean Squadron in 1883.
Rounded rectangular, the cover applied with diamond strapwork border, centering cartouches engraved with foliate scrolls and applied with a diamond-set tughra of Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909), the base engraved with foliate strapwork and central cartouche enclosing fruit and flowers, the cover with hinge clasp.
The tughra located on the cover of the present box is the stylised calligraphic representation of the name and titles of the Ottoman sultans. Tughras were primarily employed on coins, seals and official sultanic decrees, and endowment documents. Its application on a work of art indicates palatial background and royal patronage. Regalia and royal gifts from the Ottoman palace presented to distinguished foreigners as diplomatic gifts or mementos of friendship were also adorned with the imperial monogram. A comparable palatial object similarly adorned with the tughra of Mahmud II (r. 1808-1839) - is an enamelled hanging ornament, preserved in the Imperial treasury of the Topkapı Palace Museum (inv. no. 7616). Another ceremonial pendant bearing the tughra of Sultan Selim III (r.1789-1808) is also is in the Imperial Ottoman treasury. For the illustrations of both please see: Topkapı – the Treasury, 1987, pl. 13-14, p.189. Orders and medals granted to individuals for their remarkable achievements were also decorated with the tughra of the reigning sultan, please see: Topkapı Palace – The Imperial Treasury, 2001, pp. 93-95. The box in hand, besides its very high artistic value, is historically important, documenting the background of Ottoman diplomatic gifts underthe reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II.
Rear Admiral Charles H. Baldwin (d. 1888)
Born in New York City, Baldwin joined the Navy on April 24, 1839, and served as a midshipman aboard the frigate Brandywine (1839–40) and the sloop Fairfield (1840–43) in the Mediterranean Squadron, before returning to the U.S. aboard the sloop Vandalia in 1843 to attend the Naval School at Philadelphia, graduating with the rank of passed midshipman on July 2, 1845. He served through the Mexican–American War on the frigate Congress in the Pacific Squadron, serving on operations around Mazatlán, during the time that it was occupied by U.S. naval forces between November 1847 to June 1848. He received his commission as lieutenant in November 1853, but left the Navy on February 28, 1854.
Baldwin re-entered the naval service in 1861, on the outbreak of the Civil War, with the rank of acting-lieutenant. In February 1862 he commissioned the steamer Clifton, and sailed from New York to Ship Island for duty with the Mortar Flotilla of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. In April, during the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, Clifton towed 21 mortar schooners into the Mississippi River, and supported them as they bombarded the fortifications below New Orleans. The next month, after the capture of the city, the ship sailed upriver to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where it was damaged by enemy gunfire. Baldwin was promoted to commander in November 1862, given command of the steamer Vanderbilt in early 1863 and ordered to hunt down the notorious Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama. Over the next year Baldwin took his ship to the West Indies, the eastern coast of South America, the Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, Spain and Portugal, but his quarry always eluded him, sometimes only by a few hours. During the voyage Vanderbilt also served as the flagship of Commodore Charles Wilkes Flying Squadron in the West Indies, and captured several British blockade runners, including the Peterhoff.
Baldwin eventually returned to New York in January 1864 without ever having sighted the Confederate vessel. He was then assigned to ordnance duty, serving at the Mare Island Navy Yard in California until 1867. He returned to sea as the Fleet Captain of the North Pacific Squadron in 1868-9, and received promotion to the rank of captain in 1869. He then served as the Inspector of Ordnance at Mare Island from 1869–71, and commanded the frigate Colorado, flagship of the Asiatic Squadron in 1871- 73. He was commander of the Naval Rendezvous (recruitment station) at San Francisco in 1873, and was commissioned as commodore on August 8, 1876, serving as a Member of the Board of Examiners from 1876-79. In early 1883 Baldwin was promoted to rear admiral, and assumed command of the European Squadron on 10 March. He then sailed to Kronstadt in his flagship Lancaster, and on 27 May he and his staff attended the coronation of Tsar Alexander III in Moscow. He passed away in 1888.
Provenance: Private U.S. Collection