Let me first tell you about Sultan Mehmed II. He lived between 1432 and 1481. He was the 7th emperor of Ottoman Empire. After conquering Istanbul he was called Fatih, which means conqueror.
When Fatih Sultan Mehmed conquered Istanbul, many Venetians lived in Istanbul. Conquering Istanbul harmed the Venetian people. That's why between the years 1453 and 1479 the Ottomans and Venetians had many conflict. Finally, the Venetian senate accepted a peace settlement. Then Gentile Bellini was sent to Istanbul as a painter and a cultural ambassador.
Sultan Mehmed was very interested in art and culture therefore it was important to have a portrait by a very talented painter. Before Bellini painted the portrait, Sultan Mehmed wanted to make sure he was a talented painter. That's why Bellini painted other portraits at the palace. When Sultan Mehmed saw the paintings he was satisfied and let Bellini to paint the portrait. Then Bellini finished the portrait of Sultan Mehmed in November 25th, 1480 and signed it. Sultan Mehmed was very pleased with the painting.
Let me tell you about Gentile Belline. He was born in 1429 in Venice. His father and brother were renowned painters. Gentile was taught painting by his father. He created many paintings but they were destroyed by fire. That's why only a few paintings remained. He was the first painter who painted a portrait of an Ottoman emperor. He died in 1507.
We don't know how the portrait went out of the palace but after Sultan Mehmed, Beyazid II was the emperor and He didn't like the paintings of human faces and he thought it was sinful. Therefore it's said that it was taken by a dealer. Also some say that it was taken by the artist when he left Istanbul. It's unknown what happened for certain and how the painting was taken to Venice.
The painting finally went to London. Let me tell about it. British ambassador Henry Layard bought the painting from a Venetian collector between 1877-1880 and before he died he requested that the painting go to the National Gallery Museum. This is how it ends.
|Fatih Sultan Mehmed II, 1480; oil on canvas; National Gallery, London.|
If you're wondering, here's what I think about this painting. Firstly it's a very realist painting. Sultan Mehmed had an illness and you can understand it from his face. Also we see six crowns on the top and one more at the bottom which means to me they show his power. They show he was the seventh emperor of Ottoman. The colors are dark but I like the contrast. One day, if I go to London, I'd like to see the painting very much.
Thanks a lot for reading.