Skip to main content

Gentile Bellini, 'The Sultan Mehmet II', 1480

Key facts
Full title The Sultan Mehmet II
Artist Gentile Bellini
Artist dates active about 1460; died 1507
Date made 1480
Medium and support Oil (19th-century repaint) on canvas, perhaps transferred from wood
Dimensions 69.9 × 52.1 cm
Inscription summary Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3099
Location On loan: Long Loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum (2021 - 2024), Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Sultan Mehmet II
Gentile Bellini

As ruler of the expanding Islamic Ottoman Empire, Sultan Mehmet II was one of the most powerful men in the world when this portrait was painted. Fascinated by portraiture and European culture, he sent a request for a painter to the Venetian authorities in 1479. Gentile Bellini, having recently completed a series of portraits of the doges (elected rulers) of Venice, was well qualified for the task.

The majority of those portraits were painted in the traditional profile view, but here Gentile has shown the Sultan’s face and body turned slightly towards the viewer, a new fashion in Venice. Although the painting is quite damaged we can still see many meticulous details, like the embroidered cloth hanging over the marble ledge, its many gems and pearls a sign of wealth and magnificence. To further glorify the Sultan, Gentile included three golden crowns on either side of the arch – probably intended to represent Greece, Trebizond and Asia, which Mehmet ruled.

Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo