Inquiry launched over Istanbul Municipality’s Mehmed the Conqueror portrait
The Istanbul Governor’s Office has launched an inquiry into a portrait of Ottoman Emperor Mehmet the Conqueror, which the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality had bought in an auction in London for $1.1 million, after allegations that the painting could be fake.
“The governor’s office has sent some questions. Our friends [dealing with the sale] have been facing unpleasant treatment. I hope the inquiry closes before it turns into an investigation,” said Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on Dec. 24.
“This is a waste of time. I hope the legal institutions do not waste their time working on these sham allegations. This is tragicomic; it’s a joke,” he said.
The governor’s office sent a letter to the municipality on Dec. 22 to bring the allegations under attention that the portrait could be fake, based solely on claims made by a local.
The municipality had bought the portrait of Sultan Mehmed II in June 25 at Christie’s auction house in London. The painting was exhibited in the municipality building between Oct. 6 and the beginning of December.
The portrait, according to Christie’s, is the product of the workshop of Gentile Bellini of Venice, circa 1429-1507. It is an oil on panel portrait and is 33.4 cm in height and 45.4 cm in width. It is the last one to remain in private hands, said Christie’s.
Mehmet II was called “the Conqueror” after he brought an end to the eastern-Christian world of Byzantium in 1453 when he conquered Constantinople at just the age of 21.
The second figure portrayed in the painting alongside Mehmed II is unknown to this day.
“We don’t know who this other figure is,” Christie’s Islamic & Indian Art Department head Sara Plumbly had said in June.
“There have been a few suggestions. For instance, one of his three sons. But that does not seem to fit precisely how he is depicted in terms of the age that one of the sons would have been at the time. Some others suggest he might be a European dignitary. He is sort of clean-shaven. He does not have the beard you might expect from an Ottoman man,” she said.