National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Image: Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World

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Costanzo da Ferrara
Neapolitan, active 1481
Mehmed II, 1430-1481, Sultan of the Turks 1451
obverse, c. 1481, bronze, diameter: 12.3 cm (4 25/32 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Image: Costanzo da Ferrara
Neapolitan, active 1481
Mehmed II, 1430-1481, Sultan of the Turks 1451, obverse, c. 1481
bronze, diameter: 12.3 cm (4 25/32 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1957.14.695.a

Little is known about the artist, who worked in Lombardy and Ferrara before settling in Naples, where he was last recorded in 1492. Costanzo was sent to Istanbul after the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II asked Ferrante I of Naples (r. 1458-1494) to send a highly regarded painter, probably around 1475 to 1478, when there were diplomatic contacts between the two rulers. The robust appearance of the sultan suggests that the medal predates the rapid physical decline which began sometime in 1479.

Among the numerous medals of Mehmed II, this is the best artistically and technically. The obverse's incisive profile of the sultan in his distinctive headgear, and the reverse's equestrian image in a rocky landscape both derive from Pisanello's medal of John VIII Palaeologus, the penultimate Byzantine emperor. By emphasizing Mehmed's corpulence and alertness, Costanzo projected an image of vigor and power well suited to impressing a European audience. The equestrian image pointedly shows the sultan bearing a Western style baton as well as a sword. The purpose of the medal is unknown. The Gallery's unique undated cast is probably the earlier of two versions, struck for Mehmed himself. A slightly different version dated 1481 that survives in several casts may have been issued after Mehmed's death.

Inscriptions: On the obverse, SVITANVS . MOHAMETH . OTHOMANVS . TVRCORVM . IMPERATOR [Sultan Mehmed of the house of Osman, emperor of the Turks]; on the reverse, HIC . BELLI . FVLMEN . POPVLOS . PROSTRAVIT . ET . VRBES . [This man, the thunderbolt of war, has laid low peoples and cities]; in the tablet at the bottom of the reverse, CONSTANTIVS . F[ecit] [Costanzo made it]

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