Article Title

Frame for a Sultan


This essay explores the iconography and significance of the painted frame in the 1480 portrait of the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II by the Venetian artist Gentile Bellini. The frame is lavishly polymorphous and functions as an encomium of sorts, a visual praise that sets the royal figure apart and propels it into the realm of the holy. The sultan internalized as well as institutionalized the distant, unapproachable persona of the late Byzantine emperors and, like them, retreated behind elaborate ceremonial and precious materials. Bellini responded to these circumstances and granted the sultan the status of semi-divine being while synthesizing Italian and Byzantine traditions of enshrinement of sacred images and matter.