Old Masters

Old Masters

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 61. Sold Without Reserve | SOUTH GERMAN SCHOOL, CIRCA 1600 | PORTRAIT OF AN AMBASSADOR.

Sold Without Reserve


Lot Closed

June 11, 03:06 PM GMT


10,000 - 15,000 USD

Lot Details


Sold Without Reserve



oil on oak panel

panel: 43 by 35 in.; 111 by 89 cm.

framed: 49½ by 41¼ in.; 125.7 by 104.8 cm.

Private collector, circa 1970 - 2017.

Dendrochronological testing of this oak panel indicates a likely execution date of between circa 1590 and circa 1606.1 The clearly expensive outfit of the sitter implies he was a person of significant standing and he has been tentatively proposed to be an ambassador of the Ottoman Empire to the Habsburg Court. One possibility would be Ibrahim, the Polish convert Joachim Strasz (died 1571), who went to Frankfurt on a celebrated mission in 1562, and to Austria in 1568. Another possible identification might be the dragoman-diplomat Mahmud Bey (before 1526-1575), who was of Hungarian origin, and went to Prague in 1575.

The armor the sitter wears is probably Augsburgian but with some anomalies in design which make it difficult to identify with any certainty. The underskirt is woven with silver thread, and is decorated with the crescent moon of Islam and with eight pointed stars, each woven in gold thread and stitched with pearls and gemstones; the armor is trimmed in red velvet and edged in a running motif of musical instruments. Relations between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the century were fractious. The Long Turkish War (or Thirteen Years' War) only finished in 1606 with the successful resistance of the Prince of Transylvania, Stephen Bocskay (who had the support of the Ottoman Empire), to the forces for Emperor Rudolf II, which resulted in the Treaty of Vienna. The treaty significantly stabilized the Habsburg–Ottoman frontier. A 1596 print of Bocskay's nephew, Sigismund Báthory, Prince of Transylvania (1573–1613), depicts the sitter with a similar hairstyle to that of the present sitter, with its unusual shaved sides and longer upper mantle.

Infrared reflectography does not reveal any distinct underdrawing, but a number of significant pentimenti are visible. The sitter was initially depicted between two square columns. It would appear that the green curtain was added at a later stage, and was painted over the aforementioned columns. During the addition of the curtain, the profile of the sitter and positioning of his arm was adjusted. The table with the turban was also painted over the right hand column. The now concealed columns both appear to have been quite finished suggesting that this compositional change occurred late in the painting's execution.

1. Report provided by Ian Tyers Tree-ring Analysis, June 2015.

2. T.P. Graf, The Sultan's Renegades: Christian-European Converts to Islam and the Making of the Ottoman Elite, 1575-1610, Oxford 2017, p. 135.