Istanbul municipality acquires Ottoman sultan's portrait at London auction

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ISTANBUL, June 26 (Xinhua) -- The municipality of Turkey's largest city Istanbul purchased one of the rare portraits of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II at a live auction in London on Thursday.

"Great news! A 15th-century portrait of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror was bought by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality," Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu announced the purchase on his Twitter account the previous day.

"We are thrilled and cannot wait to welcome this celebrated work of art in Istanbul soon," he added.

The oil painting portrait was acquired by two municipality officials who joined the auction at the prominent British auction house Christie's over the phone, the municipality said at a press release issued on Friday.

"Following a fierce competition, the municipality paid the highest price and purchased the portrait for 770,000 British pounds or 955,000 U.S. dollars."

The sultan conquered the Byzantine city of Constantinople, today's Istanbul, in 1453, when he was 21 years old, bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire. Since then, he has been known as Mehmed the Conqueror, one of the most revered figures among Turkish people.

The portrait is believed to be among the masterpieces of the Italian painter Gentile Bellini, created in 1480.

"Perhaps it was one of the last poses of the conqueror before being poisoned to death in 1481," the release said.

The painting was one of the three original portraits of the sultan that was created in his own time and preserved up to date, the municipality added, noting that it was among the permanent works of art of the National Gallery in London.

The identity of the second person facing the sultan at the painting, meanwhile, is unknown.

"We don't know who this other figure is. But there have been a few suggestions," Sara Plumbly, head of Christie's Islamic and Indian Art Department, was quoted in the release as saying.

"The first one suggests that he was one of the three sons of the sultan, and the second one proposes that he might be a European dignitary" she said.

A municipality official told Xinhua on Friday that the portrait is expected to arrive in Istanbul in the coming days, and would be put on display at the municipality headquarter in the Sarachane neighborhood on the European side of the city. Enditem

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