Name of Object:

Portrait of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I


Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)

About Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS), Edinburgh

Date of Object:

Hegira first half of the 11th century / AD first half of the 17th century

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Al-fakir Süleyman.

Museum Inventory Number:

A. 1888.88 fol. 11 A

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Gouache and gold on paper.


29 x 19.9 cm (with frame), 19 x 12.7 cm (without frame)

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


This miniature painting executed in gouache on paper is a portrait of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I (AH 1012–26 / AD 1603–17) and once formed part of an album that contained both Ottoman Turkish and Persian miniatures, apparently assembled in the AH 12th / AD 18th century. The youthful ruler, best known as the founder of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, is seated on a large, richly decorated throne beneath a cusped arch. He is leaning against a decorated bolster wearing a white turban enhanced by two tall plumes issuing from bejewelled sockets. His green and gold-brocade caftan has large, gold globular buttons down the front. The garment is secured by a jewel-studded gold belt, which incorporates three cusped, circular units at the front. A bejeweled dagger handle can be seen protruding from Sultan Ahmed’s belt on the right. He wears a red-orange overcoat with small gold buttons down the front; the coat is lined with ermine. A gold-coloured slipper protrudes from underneath his garments. In his left hand, the fifth finger of which is enhanced by a gold ring with circular stone, Sultan Ahmed holds the mandil, a ceremonial handkerchief with gold detailing. In his right hand he holds a volume of poetry bound in the so-called sefine format (with the vertically oriented pages bound at the top, narrow end). The gilt binding shows a delicately drawn, central medallion enclosed within an elongated, arched cartouche.
Above the portrait of the sultan runs a cursive inscription contained within two elongated cusped cartouches, written in white against a blue background and enhanced by white floral detailing, it reads: ‘Hasrat Sultan Ahmad [Ahmed] ibn Sultan Muhammad [Mehmed] Khan’. A tiny inscription on the lower left-hand side of the work names the painter ‘al-fakir Süleyman’. The portrait is surrounded by a green inner frame and an orange outer frame with additional ruled frames in blue, red, gold and green in between and around the outside of the outer border.

View Short Description

This miniature painting shows the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I, best known as the founder of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It has been suggested that this portrait was executed in the court workshops of the Topkapı Saray in Istanbul during the early AH 11th / AD 17th century.

How date and origin were established:

It is assumed that this portrait was painted during or just after the lifetime of Sultan Ahmed I (r. 1012–26 / 1603–17).

How Object was obtained:

Purchased from M. Richard, Tehran, in 1888.

How provenance was established:

It has been suggested that this portrait was executed in the Court workshops of the Topkapı Saray in Istanbul during the early 11th / early 17th century.

Selected bibliography:

Scarce, J., Domestic Culture in the Middle East: An Exploration of the Household Interior, Edinburgh, 1996, p.87.
Sourdel-Thomine, J., and Spuler, B., “Die Kunst des Islam”, Propyläen Kunstgeschichte; 4, Berlin 1973, Plate 416.
Türkische Kunst und Kultur aus osmanischer Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Recklinghausen, 1985, p.67, cat. no. 1/29.

Citation of this web page:

Ulrike Al-Khamis "Portrait of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;uk;Mus03;24;en

Prepared by: Ulrike Al-KhamisUlrike Al-Khamis

Ulrike Al-Khamis is Principal Curator for the Middle East and South Asia at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. She began her academic career in Germany before completing her BA (1st class Hons) in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 1987. The same year she moved to Edinburgh, where she completed her Ph.D. thesis on “Early Islamic Bronze and Brass Ewers from the 7th to the 13th Century AD” in 1994. From 1994 to 1999 she worked as Curator of Muslim Art and Culture for Glasgow Museums and, in 1997, was one of the main instigators of the first ever Scottish Festival of Muslim Culture, SALAAM. Since 1999 she has been based at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, where she has curated several exhibitions and continues to publish aspects of the collections. In addition to her museum work she has contributed regularly to the teaching of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Edinburgh.

Copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: UK3 24


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

MWNF Galleries

Calligraphy Portraits

See also

Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail

EARLY OTTOMAN ART - Legacy of the Emirates


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