Royal and diplomatic visits
Diplomatic gifts
Diplomatic gifts played a crucial role in the political relationship between Europe and the Arab and Ottoman world.
Diplomatic gifts, exchanged to cement the complex political relations between the Arab and Ottoman world and Europe, had a significant symbolic role to play and so were selected very carefully. As markers of power, wealth, luxury and sophistication, gifts were intended to convey clear messages about the status, prowess and trustworthiness of the giver while at the same time subtly impressing if not intimidating the recipient. The quality and extent of the gifts given reflected closely the interactions that were sought or that the gift-giver hoped to maintain. At the same time, gifts were chosen to showcase either what the best national industries and craftsmen had to offer or to pander directly to the recipient’s tastes and predilections. Highly decorated weapons were among the most popular gifts exchanged. Other particularly favoured items included timepieces, bejewelled medals and artefacts, richly caparisoned horses, textiles, items of clothing, carpets, and even national antiquities.
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Royal and diplomatic visits

European diplomatic visits
Ottoman and Arab diplomatic visits
Diplomatic gifts
Pair of pistols, a diplomatic present of Sidi Mohammed II, Bey (1855–1859) of Tunis, to Emperor Franz Joseph


Kunsthistorisches Museum, Collection of Arms and Armour, Vienna, Austria

Claude Bizouard

Wood, iron, diamonds and gold

The Bey of Tunis gifted these pistols to Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria as part of his strategy to secure an alliance with the Austrian Empire against the French and their threatening presence in neighbouring Algeria. His efforts were aided by the fact that, in the late 1850s, Austria was on the brink of war with France, which was to erupt eventually in 1859.

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In this Exhibition
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Royal and diplomatic visits
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Visiting and “revisiting” the Orient