Name of Object:

Portrait of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I


Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)


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

Type of object:

Painting, gouache, gold on paper


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

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, 2019.;ISL;uk;Mus03;24;en&id=portraits

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 Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK3 24

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