Gentile Bellini (1429 - 23 February 1507) is an Italian painter who lived in Venice during the Renaissance. It was sent to Istanbul by the Venetian Republic in 1478 to paint the portrait of Fatih Sultan Mehmet.
The life of Gentile Bellini
Gentile Bellini was born in 1429 in Venice to a painter family. His father Jacopo Bellini and especially his brother Giovanni Bellini and father-in-law Andrea Mantegna were also among the most famous painters of that period. At that time, talented painters were highly respected. Artists living in cities such as Florence and Venice in the north of the Italian peninsula were the core of the Renaissance period. Gentile and Giovanni especially painted many religious themes at that time. The two brothers also painted the paintings inside the Scuola Grande di San Marco building in Venice. Lazzaro Bastiani, along with Vittore Carpaccio, Giovanni Mansueti and Benedetto Rusconi, were among the painters hired to paint a cycle of 10 paintings known as the Remnants of the Cross, known as the Miracles. Gentile Bellini also painted many paintings in the Dukes Palace in Venice, but these paintings were destroyed in the fire in 1577.
Ottoman-Venetian relations in Gentile Bellini's time
At that time, there were many city-states in the Italian peninsula instead of a single state. One of the strongest of these was the Republic of Venice in the northeastern part of the peninsula. Venice at first gained its independence when it was a part of the Byzantine Empire, and with its powerful fleet, it seized many Aegean and Mediterranean islands, especially Crete and Cyprus. Venice played an important role in the Fourth Crusade, which plundered Constantinople in 1204, and when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror conquered Istanbul, a large Venetian community lived in the city. The Ottoman conquest of Istanbul caused great damage to Venice. For this reason, there were many conflicts between Venice and the Ottomans between 1453-1479. These conflicts ended when the Venetian Senate finally accepted the peace proposal made by the Ottomans. In addition to the provision for Venice to pay the Ottomans a large sum, the peace treaty included another extraordinary condition. He envisaged that one of Venice's most talented painters would be sent to Istanbul to paint his portrait of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. Under these conditions, Bellini came to Istanbul in 1479, during his 16 months he made many paintings and drawings besides the famous portrait of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. He is considered to be one of the founders of the Orientalist tradition, as he has seen and painted the life of both Eastern and Western societies. During this period, Bellini also painted the portrait of the Queen of Cyprus, Caterina Cornaro.
Gentile Bellini's Istanbul Trip
He stayed in Istanbul between 1479-1481. During this period, he made various drawings, including portraits of Fatih.
Fatih Sultan Mehmet wanted to be sure of Bellini's talent before letting him paint his painting. For this reason, Bellini spent his first months in Istanbul painting pictures of various people in the palace. His painting called "Seated Katip" is one of them. It is located in the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston.