This impressive painting depicts the enthronement of Sultan Osman II, which took place on 26 February 1618. Painted by an artist traveling with a European ambassador at the time, this work represents one of the earliest known depictions of an Ottoman courtly ceremony.
This engaging painting, which was executed during the reign of the successive Sultan, Murad IV (r.1623-1640), is both of artistic and historical importance, presenting the ongoing interest of the European ruling class in the daily life of the Ottoman court.
The enthroned Osman II is presented facing his mother, Mahfiruz Sultan, the head of the Imperial Harem. She is wearing a gold crown and is surrounded by her maids of honour. The birth of Sultan Osman II marked the moment in which her husband, Sultan Ahmed I, became the youngest Ottoman Sultan to ever become a father. Upon Osman’s enthronement in 1618, she left the old palace (Eski Saray) in the Bayezid district and moved to the Imperial Harem in the Topkapi Palace.
The iconic Ayasofya Mosque portrayed in the background frames the scene and sets the importance of the moment, as do the figures of the müezzins on the minarets who appear to be announcing the call to prayer (ezan). The grand mufti (şeyhülislam) Hoca Ömer Efendi, Osman II’s tutor (hace-i sultani), is situated directly in front of the Imperial Mosque; presenting the holy Qur’an towards the audience and blessing the young ruler.
The grand mufti was one of the leading political figures behind the dethronement of the previous Sultan, Mustafa I (r.1617-18 and 1622-23), paving the way for Osman II’s ascension to the throne. The musicians and dervishes surrounding Hoca Ömer Efendi were most probably from the mevlevi dervish lodge, and appear to be performing a Sufi ritual (mevlevi ayini) in order to obtain a divine blessing for the recently enthroned Sultan. The chief-black-eunuch of the Imperial Harem (kızlar ağası), Süleyman Ağa, is depicted beside the Sultan as his duty was to accompany the prince to the throne and supervise the ceremony.
The sword-bearer (silahdar ağa) is positioned behind him, holding a bejewelled box which was to be presented as an imperial gift to the Sultan. The sword-bearer’s responsibility was to escort the prince from his private chamber in the Topkapi Palace to the throne. Wearing a red kaftan behind him is the solak (imperial guard), guarding the enthroned monarch. In front of the Emperor’s mother appears the grand-vizier, Sofu Mehmed Pasha (d.1649), holding a mace.
The Austrian ambassador, Baron Hans Mollard von Reinek, is painted in distinctly European attire with a large feathered hat. Below the enthronement scene are the various members of the public and imperial chancery who have gathered in order to take part in the ceremony.
This painting is presented to us through the memory of the artist’s own personal observations. He must have been accompanying Ambassador Mollard, whose presence at the ceremony is confirmed by the renowned Ottoman historian Von Hammer: “… Mollard was present as an eye-witness during the enthronement of the Osman II to celebrate him” (“... beglückwünscht Sultan Uthman II bei seiner thronbesteigung”), see von Hammer, vol.IV/p.520.
The attention to detail on the present painting highlights not only the artist’s own capabilities but provides us with a glimpse into an important historical moment, an Ottoman enthronement, rarely seen by a European.