Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Portrait Of Sultam Selim Iii
Ottoman, circa 1805 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper
54.1 x 40.5 cm
Royal portrait series bound into albums provided an important way for Ottoman sultans to record their lineage and statecraft. The portraits of Selim II and Selim III (r. 1789-1807 CE) are examples of this venerable tradition. This image of Selim III represents a different format for Ottoman royal portraiture. It demonstrates the profound effect of European painting, particularly French, on Ottoman art by the nineteenth century. Of note is the attention to shading and a grisaille, blue, and gold palette, as well as the painting’s presentation as an oval window set on an allegory of the Sultan’s reign, framed on a black ground highlighted with gold details. Canby suggests that the buildings in the distance may be the new army barracks built by Selim III at Haydarpasha in Istanbul or restorations of Mevlevi complexes. In either case, this depiction reflects the Ottoman interest in topographical representations and maps. Continuing this story of cross-cultural influence, the series to which this portrait belongs subsequently provided the inspiration for a London printed version of Ottoman Sultan portraits published in 1815 by John Young, A Series of Portraits of the Emperors of Turkey: Engraved from Pictures Painted at Constantinople.
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