Gentile Bellini - Seated Scribe, 1479-1481

Gentile Bellini (Venice, about 1429 - 1507, Venice)

Seated Scribe, 1479-1481

Pen in brown ink with watercolor and gold on paper, 18.2 x 14 x 2.6 cm (7 3/16 x 5 1/2 x 1 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Probably painted around 1479-1480 when Gentile Bellini was sent by the Venetian Republic to Constantinople to serve as a painter to Sultan Mehmet II (1432-1481).
Probably sent as a gift or trade to the Aqqoyunlu court in Tabriz (later became the Safavid capital) in the fifteenth century.
In the collection of Bahram Mirza (1518-1550), the youngest son of Shah Isma'il of the Persian Safavid court by 1544-45 when it was mounted into an album by Dust Muhammad, a Persian painter, calligrapher, and art historian.
The album was purchased by the Swedish collector, scholar and dealer Fredrik R. Martin (1868-1933) from a Turkish family in Istanbul around 1905.
Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased this single sheet from Fredrik R. Martin on 13 September 1907 for £1,500 through the Swedish artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920).


Annotated in Persian on attached cartouche (upper right): amal-i ibn-i mu'azzin ki az ustâdân-i mashhûr-i firang-ast (The work of ibn-i mu'azzin, who is among the well-known masters of Europe)

Dimension Notes

Frame: 49.2 x 37.5 x 36.8 cm (19 3/8 x 14 3/4 x 14 1/2 in.)


J. R. Martin. "A Portrait by Gentile Bellini Found in Constantinople." The Burlington Magazine 39 (15 June 1906), pp. 148-49. (as Gentile Bellini, "A Portrait")F.P.T. Sarre. "Ein Miniatur Gentile Bellini, gemalt 1479-80 in Konstantinople," Jahrbuch der königlichen preuszischen Kunstammlungen 27 (1906), pp. 302-306, 28 (1907) pp. 51-52. Claude Arnet. "Exhibition of Persian Miniatures at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris-II." Burlington Magazine (1915), pp. 105-06.F.V.P. "The Goloubew Collectoin of Persian and Indian Paintings." MFA Bulletin (Feb. 1915), p. 3. (as Gentile Bellini, entitled "Portrait of a Prince")Philip Hendy. Catalogue of Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 32-34. ( as Gentile Bellini, entitled "A Turkish Artist") Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), pp. 93-94. (entitled "A Turkish Artist") Morris Carter. "Mrs. Gardner & The Treasures of Fenway Court" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 61Stuart Preston. "Seated Scribe" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 16.Rollin Hadley. "Notes, Records, Comments." Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 40 (31 May 1964), p. 2.George L. Stout. Treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1969), pp. 106-107. (entitled "A Turkish Artist")Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston: 1974), pp. 16-17. (as attributed to Gentile Bellini, "A Turkish Artist")Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 40-41.Jürg Meyer zur Capellen. Gentile Bellini (Stuttgart, 1985), pp 97, 125-26, no. A4. (as Gentile Bellini)Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), pp. 402, 406, 409.Julian Raby. "Pride and Prejudice: Mehmed the Conqueror and the Italian Portrait Medal." in Italian Medals: Studies in the History of Art 21 (National Gallery of Art: Washington DC, 1987), pp. 176, 181, note 26. (as by Costanzo da Ferrara)Hilliard Goldfarb. Italian Renaissance Drawings, Medals, and Books. Exploring Treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum I. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1991), p. 5.Jay. A. Levenson (ed.). Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration. Exh. cat. (Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 1991), p. 212, under no. 108. (as attributed to Costanzo da Ferrara)Jill S. Medvedow. "Juan Muñoz: Looking Inside and Out." in Juan Muñoz. Portrait of a Turkish Man Drawing. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1995), pp. 16-21.David J. Roxburgh. "Disorderly Conduct?: F. R. Martin and the Bahram Mirza Album." Muqarnas 15 (1998), pp. 32-57. (as ascribed to Ibn Mu'adhdhin)Hilliard Goldfarb et al. Italian Paintings and Drawings Before 1800 in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unpublished manuscript. (Boston, 1996-2000). (as Gentile Bellini, "Portrait of a Seated Scribe or Artist")Gülru Necipoglu. "The serial portraits of Ottoman sultans in comparative perspective." in The Sultan's Portrait: Picturing the House of Oman. Exh. cat. (Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Museum, 2000), pp. 22-66.Priscilla P. Soucek. "Walter Pater, Bernard Berenson, and the reception of Persian manuscript illustration." RES: Anthropology and aesthetics (2001), pp. 118-22.Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 96-97. (as attributed to Gentile Bellini)Elizabeth Anne McCauley et al. Gondola Days: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Palazzo Barbaro Circle. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Venice: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, 2004), pp. 116-118, 136, 237, fig. 91. (as Gentile Bellini)David J. Roxburg. The Persian Album, 1400-1600: From Dispersal to Collection (New Haven, 2005), pp. 245-307.Caroline Campbell and Alan Chong. Bellini and The East. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; London: The National Gallery, 2005), pp. 118-19, 122, 124, no. 32. (as Gentile Bellini)Kirsten Dickhaut. "Le vrai est ce qu'il peut - Dur (De- Konstruktion des Orients in Gérard de Nervals Werk" in Michael Bernsen and Martin Neumann. Die französische Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts und der Orientalismus (Tübingen, 2006), pp. 102-103, 109. fig. 1. (as by an anonymous artist)Alan Chong and Noriko Murai. Journeys East: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Asia. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2009), pp. 36, 52, fig. 2. (as Gentile Bellini)Richard Yeomans. The Art and Architecture of Ottoman Istanbul. (United Kingdom: Garnet Publishing Limited, 2012), pp. 193-94. (as Gentile Bellini)Oliver Tostmann et al. Anders Zorn: A European Artist Seduces America. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2013), pp. 61-62, 184. (as attributed to Gentile Bellini)David Young Kim. "Gentile in Red." I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance (Spring 2015), p. 158. (as attributed to Gentile Bellini)B. Deniz Çalis-Kural. "Three circular gardens in Venice and Constantinople/Istanbul in the context of early modern Mediterranean cross-cultural exchange." Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes (Jan. 2018), pp. 160, 162. (as Gentile Bellini)Emine Fetvaci. The Album of the World Emperor: Cross-Cultural Collecting and the Art of Album-Making in 17th Century Istanbul. (Princeton University Press, 2019), pp.85, fig. 33.  

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Gentile Bellini served as state painter to the Republic of Venice. In 1479, they sent him to Mehmet II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Bellini drew several individuals he encountered in Constantinople, but only this sheet is finished with color and gold, suggesting that it may have been intended for the sultan himself.

Gardner purchased this rare work in 1907 with the help of artist Anders Zorn, leaving her usual art advisor Bernard Berenson seething with envy. Proud of the purchase, Gardner later collected the publications which documented the drawing’s discovery by Swedish collector, scholar, and dealer Fredrik R. Martin in Constantinople around 1905. 


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