A rare 16th-century portrait of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I, who was the longest-reigning Ottoman sultan who served between 1520 and 1566, is set to be presented to interested collectors at the end of March in Sotheby's auction house in London.
The auction comes almost exactly two years after Sotheby's had auctioned a set of historical artworks related to the Ottoman Empire, including another portrait of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, considered to be the work of one of the followers of noted Italian painter Gentile Bellini.
The current painting is not inscribed with the sultan's age but according to Sotheby's, it bears a likeness to two other 16th-century examples, both of which were copied directly from a painting owned by Paolo Giovio, a 16th-century Italian humanist and historian who owned a collection of more than 400 portraits.
One is a portrait of Sultan Suleiman I, copied some time between 1552 and 1568 for Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici, who was an Italian banker and politician known for establishing the famed Medici family as effective rulers of Florence during the Italian Renaissance, and now resides in Uffizi in Florence.
The other portrait it is associated with is a copy produced between 1578 and 1599 for the Holy Roman Emperor Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria from the House of Habsburg who was coronated in 1619 and reigned until 1637. That copy is currently on display in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
The only other known portrait of Sultan Suleiman, depicting his likeness at the age of 43 with the noted inclusion of an earring, was installed by Paul Ardier, former treasurer to late 16th-century French ruler Henri IV, in the Galerie des Illustres he assembled between 1617 and 1638 at the Chateau de Beauregard, near Blois, central France.
“This painting is a newly found version of this likeness, showing Suleiman The Lawgiver, Kanuni Süleyman, as Turks know him (1494-1566), allegedly at the age of forty-three,” read the auction house’s catalog. “This was about the time he conquered Iraq from the Safavids of Iran and roundly defeated the fleet assembled by the Pope and his allies at the Battle of Preveza.”
The painting “opens a window onto a narrative of artistic exchanges between Venice and the Ottomans in the 1530s,” according to Sotheby’s. The auction house believes the work captures the Sultan, more vividly than others, as he was described by a member of a Venetian delegation to Istanbul in 1534.
“Large black eyes, more compassionate than cruel, an aquiline nose slightly too large for his other features, a beard not shaven but cut close with scissors, long, red moustaches, and a long and slender neck,” was the description of Sultan Suleiman as Sotheby's catalog quotes.
The painting, which was part of an ex-family collection in France since the 19th century, will look for a buyer at Sotheby’s on March 31 in a live and online auction due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, with a starting bid of £60,000 ($83,000) while estimates suggest it will be sold for a sum between £80,000 and £120,000.
The auction is part of a larger program advertised as the Arts of the Islamic World & India including Fine Rugs and Carpets by Sotheby’s, which will also include rare Ottoman velvet work from the “distinguished collection of Edgar Vincent, 1st Viscount d’Abernon.”
The auction will also see a “fine illuminated Qur'an made for the chief justice of Jerusalem and Nablus, copied by Abu al-Fadl Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab al-Shafi al-Sunbati al-Araj, Egypt, Mamluk, dated 1514,” which is estimated to sell at a price between £300,000 and £500,000.
Another illuminated Qur’an, copied by Suyolcuzade Mustafa Eyyubi, a 17th-century Ottoman calligrapher, dated 1675 will start bidding from £140,000 and is expected to sell at a figure between £200,000 and £300,000.
A Kum Kapı silk niche rug with silk and metal thread brocading made in Istanbul in around 1900 is also among the highlights of the auction along with “a magnificent mother-of-pearl overlaid casket, North-West India, Gujarat, circa 1570-1600,” and artifacts of Islamic astronomy which are also put up for bidding.
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