Friday, December 01, 2006

Mehmet II

Medal of Mehmed II

Medal , obverse:Gentile Bellini (Venice, ca. 1429–1507)

Istanbul or Venice, ca. 1480–81

Cast bronze 9.2 cm (3 5/8 in.)

Inscribed (translation): On the obverse, "[portrait of] the Great Sultan Mehmed Emperor;"

on the reverse, "Gentile Bellini, Venetian, gilded knight and count palatine, made it"

Provenance: Gustave Dreyfus (1837–1914); his estate; purchased by Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York, 1930; purchased by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York, 1945; gift to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1957.

Condition: The medal is pierced at top center. The rather rough sand-cast has uneven surfaces; the obverse portrait and drapery details are soft and somewhat indistinct, yet with clear and strong lettering.

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Samuel H. Kress Collection (1957.14.737)

On May 29, 1453, the twenty-one-year-old Ottoman sultan Mehmed II entered Constantinople and took possession of the last Byzantine jewel in the Ottoman Turkish crown, effectively putting to an end one thousand years of Byzantine history. In addition to being a ruthless and brilliant military leader, Mehmed II was also a determined ruler.

One of the artists who went to Istanbul was Gentile Bellini, who embarked from Venice on September 1, 1479. While in Istanbul he was commissioned to paint imperial and other court portraits and an icon of the Virgin and Child and to decorate palace apartments.

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