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Medal - Mehmed II

Mehmed II

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Naples (city) (Probably, cast)

  • Date:

    1481 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Costanzo de Ferrara (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast Bronze

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 63, The Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 1

Costanzo de Ferrara was one of several Italian artist sent by their patrons to work at the Ottoman Sultan's court in Istanbul. Mehmed II was frequently at war with many of the Kingdoms and City States of Italy due to his invasion plans, but he sent envoys during times of peace requesting the best painters from them. He was fascinated by Italian sculpture, portraiture and technology, and desired portraits of himself. The depiction of him on horseback on the reverse is clearly based on an early portrait medal from 1438 by the artist Pisanello, celebrating the Byzantine Emperor Paleologus (a version of which was in the Sultan's collection). It thus simultaneously exploits the equestrian portrait as a symbol of power shared by both cultures, and alludes to Mehmed's claim to be a descendent of the Byzantine royal family and therefore successor to the Holy Roman Empire.

This later version of Constanzo de Ferrara's original design, dated 1481, was probably remodelled back in Italy for a local market to mark the death of the Sultan that same year, following his recent conquests in Italy, at Otranto, were retaken and the Ottoman troops repulsed. It has been cast with an integral hoop at the top, suggesting it was intended to be hung suspended for display.

Physical description

There is an integral hoop at the top. Heavily moulded double bands on both sides contain the inscriptions.

Profile bust of Mehmed II, Sultan of Turkey facing left with bust at 3/4. Has a close trimmed beard and wears a turban. Inscription.

Profile of the Sultan on Horseback facing left, The horses tail is knotted. He stands on faint rocky ground in front of two small bare trees. Inscription.

Place of Origin

Naples (city) (Probably, cast)


1481 (made)


Costanzo de Ferrara (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Cast Bronze

Marks and inscriptions

Of Sultan Mehmed, descendant of Osman, Emperor of Byzantium,1481
Inscribed on Obverse

Reverse: Equestrian image of Mehmed, Emperor of Asia and Greece, on campaign. Work of Costanzo.
Inscribed around the outside on the reverse
and over the horses platform


Depth: 1.2 cm, Diameter: 12.1 cm (plus 1.2cm hoop), Weight: 0.5 kg

Object history note

This medal is Costanzo de Ferrara's only known signed work. Costanzo was sent to Turkey by Ferrante I of Naples in response to the request of Sultan Mehmed II for a painter of high repute. He spent several years in Turkey and the first version of this medal was probably made in Constantinople during visits made either around 1467 or 1475/78. Costanza was treated well at the court reportedly made a cavaliero (knight). This is a later version of his design with a remodelled inscription, dated 1481, which was probably produced back in Naples on the death of the Sultan.
From the Salting bequest.

Historical significance: The Ottoman Turkish Empire caused a great deal of anxiety to the Christian world as it expanded under Mehmed II's rule, and he was almost continually at war with Europe. Artists such as Bellini and Costanza de Ferrara were sent out by their patrons at Mehmed's request to work at the court in Istanbul during times of peace. Portrit medals allowed the dissemination of Mehmed II's image throughout Italy and Western Europe. The medium was developed in the fifteenth century by the artists Pisanello and Filarette. Whilst a development of the Italian Renaissance, they were inspired by classical coins and the intellectual and visual cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome. Portrait medals therefore had both Eastern and Western origins that meant Mehmed could take advantage of a shared cultural history to project his preferred image. Although now viewed in a Western art tradition, at its point of origin in the 15th century this was more of a shared art form. The first Renaissance commemorative portrait medal by Pisanello commemorates an event of importance to both East and West and depicts the emperor in profile and also on horseback, hunting, on the reverse. This design is clearly based on this medal of Pisanello's of John Paleologus on Horseback at the Council of Florence, 1438 (a copy of which was found in a collection inherited from Mehmed II). By having himself depicted mounted on horseback the Sultan used a symbol of power that had currency in both the East and Europe. The popularity of these medals and his desire to be depicted in this way by Italian artists also reflect his designs on conquering Italy and his known interest in Italian sculpture. portraiture and technology.

Historical context note

Mehmed II was born on 30th March 1432 and died on 3rd May 1481. At 21 he captured the capital of fading Byzantium following the siege of Constantinople, and in 1461 went on to take Trebizond on the Back Sea, then the only centre of Byzantine or Eastern Christian rule left. Mehmed II thought of himself as the heir to the Roman Empire and he adopted the title "Kayser-I-Rum" (Roman Caesar). He claimed blood lineage to the Byzantine imperial family. In 1480 he invaded Italy, with the intention of reuniting the Roman Empire for the first time by capturing Rome. He captured Otranto but fierce resistance from Ferrante of Naples and the Pope meant that it was reclaimed on his death in 1481. This medal may have been re-issued with the remodelled inscription and the date to commemorate the Sultans death.

Descriptive line

Medal, bronze, Mehmed II, by Costanzo Ferrara, Italy, end of 15th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Scher, Stephen K Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance [New York: H.N. Abrams in association with the Frick Collection, 1994], pp.87-89.
Hill, G.F. A corpus of Italian medals of the Renaissance before Cellini [London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1930], p. 80.
Campbell, Caroline and Chong, Alan, Bellini and the East , London, National Gallery, 2005
Waddington, Raymond B., 'Breaking News: Representing the Islamic Other on Renaissance Medals', The Medal, no. 53, autumn 2008, pp. 6-20.
'Salting Bequest (A. 70 to A. 1029-1910) / Murray Bequest (A. 1030 to A. 1096-1910)'. In: List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (Department of Architecture and Sculpture). London: Printed under the Authority of his Majesty's Stationery Office, by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Limited, East Harding Street, EC, p. 25

Production Note

Costanzo di Myosis and Costanzo Lombardo are also thought to be the same person.

This medal dated 1481 is a later version of Costanza's earlier medal, executed back in Naples perhaps not by the artist himself.





Subjects depicted



Coins & Medals; Portraits; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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