EARLIEST KNOWN PORTRAIT OF SULTAN MEHMED II TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION On the 25th April Baldwin’s will offer for sale one of the most important pieces of Islamic historical documentation. The discovery of the Magnus Princeps Bronze Portrait Medal of Sultan Mehmed II, c.
News-Antique.com - Feb 14,2012 - On the 25th April Baldwin’s will offer for sale one of the most important pieces of Islamic historical documentation. The discovery of the Magnus Princeps Bronze Portrait Medal of Sultan Mehmed II, c.1460 in late 2000 provides the earliest known portrait of one of history’s greatest military commanders.
Prior to this the only reliable appearance of the most famous Sultan of the Ottoman Empire’s rested on two portraits produced towards the end of his life: one on a medal executed by Constanzo da Ferrara in the mid-to late 1470s, which shows the Sultan as corpulent, wizened and well into middle age; the other on a painting by Gentile Bellini, the elderly and now frail image of the Sultan having been taken shortly before his death. Mehmed II had done much to bring European artists and craftsmen to the Ottoman Court, and these universally known portraits are the result of independent visits that the two Italian artists made to Constantinople in the latter part of the Sultan’s life. The Sultan’s physical appearance from this early period has been one of the imponderables of Ottoman scholarship, for which no evidence was thought to have survived.
The script on the top of the medal reads MAGNVS PRINCEPS ET MAGNVS AMIRAS SULTANVS DNS MEHOMET [Great Prince and Great Amir, Sultan Lord Mehmed]; a fitting tribute to the man who, aged just twenty-one, masterminded the siege of Byzantium (bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire) and established the foundation of Constantinople (renamed Istanbul during the Ottoman reign) as the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Made in the decade following the siege and capture of Constantinople in 1453, the medal is a significant piece of Ottoman iconography from this early period of Mehmed’s sultanate and, as the only know example, is of the greatest rarity.
After a very brief reign from the age of twelve (1444-1446), Mehmed II ascended the throne for a second time in 1451. His ambition was to create a world empire like the Roman Empire and his first move towards this came with the incorporation of the old Byzantine administration into the Ottoman state. During his 31 year rule he initiated a number of wars to enlarge the Ottoman Empire.
The occupation of Constantinople led to the conquest of all the Turkish kingdoms and territories of Asia Minor, Bosnia, Kingdom of Serbia and Albania. A cultured and highly intelligent man he made many administrative reforms as the empire expanded putting his country on an affluent path. This in turn made it possible for successive sultans to focus on the expansion of the state and the growth in to new territories.
Mehmed’s formative years were largely spent in Italy, in areas close to Genoese and Venetian trading posts, and he subsequently brought many Western influences and ideas to the Ottoman Court in Constantinople. He received lessons in ancient history, with Greek and Roman coinage serving as a form of teaching aid, and developed a strong self-identification with Alexander the Great, under whose