Istanbul Municipality buys Ottoman sultan’s portrait
A portrait of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, known as Fatih Sultan Mehmet, who led the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, was sold at an auction in London on June 25. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu announced on Twitter that the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality bought the painting.
“As the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, we bought the oil painting, which is believed to have emerged from the workshop of the Italian painter Gentile Bellini in the 15th century, one of the three original portraits of Fatih Sultan Mehmet Han and was sold at an auction in London,” İmamoğlu said.
In a written statement, the municipality said the portrait will return home, to Istanbul, after many years.
Believed to have been drawn by Italian painter Gentile Bellini in 1480, the portrait fetched 770,000 pounds (6.5 million Turkish Liras) at the Christie’s auction house.
The portrait, which is part of the auction house’s Islamic and Indian Art collection, is unsigned. One of the great mysteries of the portrait is the figure next to Fatih Sultan Mehmet. “We don’t know who this other figure is. 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,” said
Christie’s official Sara Plumbly ahead of the auction.
She pointed out that a second figure drawn on the same scale in portraits of Ottoman sultans is not a common practice. “If you have another figure, he should be either a very important person or someone from the royal family.”
The portrait was estimated to have been made in the second half of the 15th century, and another important aspect of the work is that it was one of only three portraits made during his era. The other famous painting of him was drawn by Bellini and has been in the collection of the National Gallery in London.