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Work Mustafa II in armor

Department of Islamic Art: The modern empires : Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal (16th-19th centuries)

Mustafa II in armour

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Etienne Revault

Islamic Art
The modern empires : Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal (16th-19th centuries)

Author(s):
Richard Francis

This page was the final illustration that accompanied a Turkish prose work entitled Qiyâfat al-insâniya fi shamâyil 'usmaniya (Human Physiognomy in Ottoman Portraits), written by Luqman ibn Sayyid Husayn al-'Ashuri al-Husayni (known as Loqman). The page is the work of the Ottoman painter Levni, who signed his name in gold in one of the patterns in the carpet beneath the sultan's feet. Mustafa II ascended to the throne in 1695, abdicated in 1703, and died the following year.

The Ottoman tradition of official dynastic portraiture

The Ottomans had a very old tradition of official portraiture. We know of an album of portraits of twelve sultans (from Osman I to Murad III) that was created in 1579. Another album dates to 1583, and there are genealogies (silsilename) that began to appear in the late 16th century, illustrated with portraits in medallions. The tradition became solidly established and was continued thereafter. These portraits contributed to the glorification of the dynasty and are connected with the Ottoman taste for the historiography of the empire.
Here, the sovereign - the twenty-second in the dynasty - is depicted in military garb, his helmet covered with the green turban of the caliph and a sumptuous plume. He holds a sword and there is a dagger in his belt. Two sentinels with red caps - one of whom holds the sovereign's quiver - are members of the sultan's personal guards. The inscription above this scene reads: "Sultan Mustafa Khan II, may the mercy of God be upon him!"

Levni, one of the most celebrated Ottoman painters

In addition to an album from the former Schefer Collection preserved in France's Bibliothèque Nationale, we know of a certain number of other works by the same artist, particularly those presented to the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul. Among these, there is a signed portrait of Mustafa II; he is shown alone, leaning on a cushion, and holding a handkerchief. The Louvre's portrait, depicting the sultan as a warrior clad in armor, is relatively rare - it was probably meant to emphasize Mustafa's role as commander in chief. The Treaty of Karlowitz was signed only in 1699, after a long series of battles in which the sultan himself took part. We know of one other portrait somewhat similar to this one, in which Levni depicted the sultan Murad IV (1623-40) - who had also taken part in a number of military operations - with armor decorated slightly differently. The Topkapi Palace Museum has a portrait of Ahmet III, Mustafa's brother and successor, in which several characteristics of the Louvre portrait can be seen.
Levni Abducelil Celebi was born in 1680 and died around 1732. A poet and a painter, he was originally from Edirna. In the service of the court at Istanbul, he introduced European elements into Ottoman painting, while at the same time preserving its basic nature. The influence of this artist was considerable. In addition to his portraits and albums, he illustrated a large number of manuscripts. These include the Surname-i Vehbi, which describes festivities that took place in 1720, and which was presented to Ahmet III in 1727 and 1728. Dimitrie Cantemir, who lived in Istanbul from 1701 to 1710, referred to Levni as an imperial painter, based on the 22 portraits of sultans that Cantemir turned into engravings to illustrate his History of the Growth and Decay of the Othman [sic] Empire (London, 1734).

Bibliography

- Fine Oriental Miniatures, Manuscripts and Islamic Works of Art, catalogue de vente aux enchères Sotheby's, New York, 1981, n° 126.

- ESIN Atil, Levni and the Surname. The Story of an Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Festival, Istanbul, 1999.

- IREPOGLU Gül, Levni. Painting, poetry, colour, Istanbul, 1999.

- Sultan's Portrait, Picturing the House of Osman, Exposition, Palais de Topkapi, Istanbul, 2000.

Technical description

  • LEVNI (active 1700 - 1720, died in 1732)

    Mustafa II in armour

    Early 18th century

    Turkey

  • Gouache, silver and gold on paper

    Miniature: H. 16.5 cm; W. 10.8 cm
    Page: H. 23.2 cm; W. 14 cm

  • Acquired in April 2003

    Page from an album comprised of portraits of the Ottoman sultans

    MAO 2009

  • Islamic Art

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