Art, Sultan Mehmet portrait

Istanbul City Council buys portrait of Sultan Mehmet II

The portrait, painted in the 15th century by the Italian painter Gentile Bellini, is one of three that were painted in the lifetime of the Ottoman Sultan, who led the siege that culminated in the conquest of Constantinople.

A portrait of Sultan Mehmet II, called Mehmet II the Conqueror because he led the siege that culminated in the fall of Constantinople in 1453, has been sold during an auction in London and purchased by the Istanbul Metropolitan City Council, as confirmed on Twitter by mayor of the city, Ekrem İmamoğlu.

“As the Istanbul Metropolitan City Council, we have purchased the oil painting believed to have come from the 15th century Italian painter Gentile Bellini’s studio, one of the three existing original portraits of Sultan Mehmet Han Fatih, and it was sold at auction in London,” İmamoğlu explained.

In a statement, the Istanbul city council announced that the portrait of the Ottoman sultan will now return to Istanbul after many years. The painting, believed to have been made in 1480 by Gentile Bellini although not actually signed, fetched a price of £770,000 -about €850,000- during the auction held at Christie’s.

One of the great mysteries that persists today about this portrait is to whom corresponds the image drawn to the left of the sultan; art history experts have considered various theories, including that he is one of the Sultan’s three children, although the face that appears does not correspond to the age of any of his children at that time. Others believe that having no beard would not be an Ottoman character, but some European dignitary of the time.

This portrait of Sultan Mehmet II now recovered by the Istanbul City Council has another particularity: it is one of the only three portraits that exist painted in life of the Ottoman sultan. The other two acquaintances are part of the collection of the National Gallery in London.