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.
in Ragusa, and he was subsequently engaged on the triumphal arch for the Castelnuovo in Naples in 1452-53. The rebuilding of Constantinople in the 1450s, following its conquest by Mehmed, attracted many Western artists and craftsmen. There is therefore every reason why a monumental sculptor such as da Milano would find himself in that city, encouraged by the prospects of work. The finesse with which the portrait of Mehmed has been modelled is somewhat at odds with the lettering, which is uneven and at times clumsy. Further knowledge about workshop practices may well reveal that aspects of a medal, such as the inscriptions, were in fact executed by different artists; in any case, medals originating from a workshop were not necessarily executed solely by the master craftsman himself. The magnus princeps medal bears some general similarities to the medallic style of Francesco de Laurana, who is said to have worked closely with Pietro da Milano; and thus elements of collaboration, in whatever form they may have taken, cannot be ruled out.
It is not known how many examples of the medal were cast in bronze, if indeed more than one original was made. At some point in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, the portrait found itself adapted for use on a group of medals produced under the auspices of a Frenchman called Jean Tricaudet. With the subsequent disappearance of the magnus princeps bronze prototype, the origin and legitimacy of the Sultan’s portrait on these medals was being called into question, so thoroughly tooled and chased were they. The discovery of this medal at an auction held by Christies, Rome in 2000 has removed any such doubts. The medal was bought as part of lot 696 in their auction held on the 14th December and was one of a selection of items from a significant European collection. The historical importance of this splendid medal was not realised at the time.
This unique and incredible piece of history carries an estimate of £300,000 – 400,000 and will be sold together with 149 other numismatic rarities of the classical Islamic world on the 25th April 2012 in The Pine Room at The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair, London. This sale will comprise some of the finest and most highly prized coins known to exist including an Umayyad Dinar struck in the year 105 H.