'Lost' Sultan Mehmed II portrait on circa 1460 medal auctions in London

Would you have guessed that one of the most important pieces of Islamic historical documentation is a rare medal? The piece, the Magnus Princeps Bronze Portrait Medal of Sultan Mehmed II, will be auctioning in London on April 25, at A H Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

Dating to circa 1460, this coin was discovered as recently as the year 2000. Its surface depicts the earliest known portrait of Sultan Mehmed II, one of history's greatest military commanders.

To illustrate just how great the Sultan was: at age 21 he masterminded the siege of Byzantium which brought an end to the Byzantine Empire. He also established the founding of Constantinople as the Ottoman's capital city, later renamed Istanbul.

We've reported quite a bit on Ottoman Empire collectibles, recently. Especially how the Empire drew its influences from a range of cultures.

Mehmed II played a key role in this, bringing many European artists and craftsmen to the Ottoman Court. As a result, the two known portraits of the Sultan which historians rely on to this day were each by Italian artists made during a visit to Constantinople.


Magnus Princeps Bronze Portrait Medal of Sultan Mehmed II-410.jpg
The coin is inscribed: Great Prince and Great Amir, Sultan Lord Mehmed

One is on a medal executed by Constanzo da Ferrara in the mid-to-late 1470s, which shows the Sultan in wizened middle age. The other is a painting by Gentile Bellini of an elderly and frail Mehmed, taken shortly before his death.

Any evidence of the Sultan's physical appearance from his younger years was thought forever lost by scholars and collectors alike. Hence the importance of this Magnus Princeps Bronze Portrait Medal of Sultan Mehmed II - the earliest-known portrait of the Sultan.

Script on the top of the medal reads "MAGNVS PRINCEPS ET MAGNVS AMIRAS SULTANVS DNS MEHOMET," which translates as: "Great Prince and Great Amir, Sultan Lord Mehmed". This medal was made in the decade following the siege of Constantinople in 1453.

So, how much could this significant piece of Ottoman iconography - the only know example of its kind - set you back? It will appear with a £300,000-400,000 presale estimate, this April.

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